The Los Angeles Lakers are finally champions achieving the rare back to back. They are on top of the world. Kobe Bryant is once again being called the best player in the world. Nobody is dogging Derek Fisher for his performance during the season. The Lakers are more respected right now than they were after last season when they beat the Orlando Magic in five games. All of this respect is much deserved; for the Lakers truly are the best basketball franchise in the world.
After last season the key word for the Lakers was stability. This meant resigning key players Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza. After much negotiation Lamar was locked up for the future while Ariza remained in limbo. Ariza became greedy and let the championship fervor seep into his head. He began to demand more money than the 6 mil. a season that the Lakers were offering him. Instead of relenting and meeting those outrageous demands the Lakers turned to another free agent Ron Artest and offered him the exact same contract. Artest eager to win a championship with the reigning champs graciously accepted their offer and so the Lakers began their journey to become champions once again. What was sure, turned to doubt, and the end result was a champion. The Lakers began the season on fire and suppressed critics who questioned the motives of Artest. However, these questions began to resurface midway through the season as the Lakers began to falter due to injuries and Artest failed to have the offensive production that was expected of him. The Lakers however, kept their heads high and moved into their first series against the Thunder in the process of picking up the pieces. Bynum was injured, Kobe's performance was obviously hampered by nagging injuries as he was suffering from a broken finger and was playing on a bad knee. The Lakers looked old in the face of a Thunder team that is one of the youngest in the leagues. However, the Lakers persevered and advanced to the next round with a little luck from their PF Pau Gasol. Who, just by chance, happened upon a put back that ended the Thunder's season and the series in six games. The difference between this series and the next were night and day. The Lakers who were tested and essentially awoke during the Thunder series were ready to take on the Utah Jazz. This series ended quickly for the Lakers as Kobe's performance improved after having his knee drained. The Lakers were able to move on just after just four games to the Western Conference finals to face the Phoenix Suns. The Suns, who were mainly an offensive team, surprised many as they actually played defense and eliminated the San Antonio Spurs and the Portland Trail Blazers from the playoffs. There goal to win a championship was prevalent in the intensity that they played with. The Suns took the Lakers to six games and the Lakers were only saved by another chance bucket from Ron Artest whose strategic positioning allowed him to score a put back as the clocked ticked to zero. The Lakers were once again Western Conference champions and were headed back to the NBA finals for a second straight season. Many were skeptic that the unorthodox play of the Suns somehow weakened the Lakers as their next opponent the Celtics played an extremely orthodox lineup. For all of the skepticism the Lakers entered game one of the NBA finals and thoroughly impressed as they steamrolled a Celtics team that looked old and out of touch (especially Kevin Garnett). Game 2 was all about Celtics and Ray Allen who set an NBA record for threes made in a game with 8. The Celtics were able to steal one game in Los Angeles and with it took home court advantage. However, this was not to last as Derek Fisher had a brilliant performance in game 3 to take home court advantage out of the Celtics' grasp. Games 4 and 5 were both won by the Celtics as the Lakers waited for the series to shift back to Los Angeles. Game 6 was won by a huge 20 point margin as the Celtics were blown out by Los Angeles. Game 7, which was one of the ugliest finals games to ever be played, was all about the defensive end. Both teams played great defense but it was the Lakers who somehow had enough gas left in the tank to play extremely tight lock down defense that restricted the Celtics and gave the Lakers their second consecutive championship.
This season ended with question marks just as the season before had ended. With the departure of almost the entire bench minus Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton, and Lamar Odom. Some might view this as a good thing because the Laker bench was never really that impressive to begin with. The question of who will play backup PG is one of the biggest questions the Lakers have to answer this off-season. Farmar already stated that he wants a bigger role and that means leaving the Lakers because he will not find that in Los Angeles. Shannon Brown has a similar situation as he also desires a bigger role with the team. Some have suggested that the Lakers should sign free agent Steve Blake in order to remedy their point guard debacle. However, this would be fanciful as the only reasons why people believe he should be signed are his age and shooting ability. Steve Blake is old which means that he takes away from the electrifying youth that was once the Laker bench. There will be no more easy open court, fast break baskets, and for his shooting ability I see that as unnecessary. If the Lakers desire another shooter to be on the court they could just play a Vujacic in a tandem role with either Bryant or Fisher playing the point. However, what one should be most concerned about with Steve Blake's ability to handle big moments. Proof of his inability to handle clutch moments is on display during the Portland-Houston series last season when Blake dribbled down the court in a fast break and for no apparent reason stopped at the 3-point line and jacked up an air ball. One might view his age as experience: however, his age should be view as a weakness. He no longer has the ability to guard younger guards and lacks the experience of big moments. It would be better if the Lakers did not take this risk and instead opted to find another young PG who can eventually be molded into a Laker starter.
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