With the Los Angeles Lakers ready to play the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals, Kobe Bryant was asked if revenge was on his mind. He replied, "What do you think?"
Basketball fans the world over already know how the "Black Mamba" thinks.
The Suns knocked the Lakers out of the playoffs two years in a row. But now Kobe is back with an old weapon (Derek Fisher) and a couple of younger ones (Ron Artest and Pau Gasol).
The rest of this series is a formality. The "Black Mamba" will check the Suns off of his vengeance list and move on to his "Final Confrontation" versus the Boston Celtics.
After the trade for Gasol, the Lakers became an elite, unstoppable team—until they ran into the physical Celtics. The experience displayed by the Celtics not only fueled the Lakers' desire to win the title, but showed them how to do so.
Gasol was nicknamed "Gasoft" as he was thrown around like a rag doll. With Gasol neutralized, the Celtics were able go after Bryant during the finals.
The image of the score board after their 131-92 loss and the chants of "Anything is Possible!" echoing from Kevin Garnett likely still causes Bryant to awaken in a cold sweat.
The Eastern Conference Finals are a formality, too.
The stage is set for the two most storied franchises in the game to meet in the finals again. The "Black Mamba" will get a chance to exorcise his biggest demon.
Here is why he will get it done:
Last year, people said, "The Lakers won the title because K.G. was injured." What about Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza being injured a couple of years ago? Ariza was huge last year.
Boston fans can say, "Not much has changed, Bynum is still hurt." True, but he's still playing. Boston fans may say, "He's not going to be able to do anything on that bum knee." Guess what? He doesn't have to.
Bynum just needs to occupy the rough Kendrick Perkins. This way, Gasol can play his natural position of power forward.
Garnett doesn't like this match-up. Perkins is not an offensive threat so Bynum won't have to work as hard on defense.
D-Fish will have his hands full with Rajon Rondo. However, as last night showed, D-Fish can take a step back and dare Rondo to beat them with jump shots. Rondo simply won't do it over seven games.
If Rasheed Wallace comes in to shoot threes from the center position that's fine. The Lakers can put Lamar Odom on him and let Wallace shoot them out of every game.
Then there's the "Black Mamba," who has nothing but vengeance on his mind against "Jesus Shuttlesworth" Bryant will exorcise the Celtic demon; he's on to pursue title No. 6.