I’ve never seen a championship team less than a month away from clinching its title become so forgotten by the media—particularly not when that championship is the team’s second straight.
But that’s just how crazy this offseason has become.
Every shift in the wind, every slight budge in momentum between the teams with the best shot at landing LeBron James (the Knicks, Heat, and Bulls) has been reported as the biggest news since Apple came up with the premise for the iPhone.
On one hand, the Lakers have been remarkably quiet in the offseason thus far. In terms of sheer excitement value, the Lakers’ signing of free agent point guard Steve Blake ranks right up there with bending paper clips or folding socks on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
It's highly debatable whether or not the Lakers have been too quiet, but in the end its' difficult to question the decision making of a front office that’s won five championships in the last decade.
But this all changes if James decides to join Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami.
In that case, the Lakers will have no choice but to address the depth issues that plagued them throughout the last two seasons. One of the few weaknesses that Miami would have is that it would have little remaining cap room to fortify a supporting cast—and in the event of a 2011 Finals series, that’s a weakness the Lakers would have to take advantage of.
However, the Lakers need to improve drastically to make that happen. Outside of Lamar Odom, who is well known for his inconsistent play on both ends of the floor, the Lakers bench is devoid of any true game changers.
While Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown had occasional breakout moments, that pair could just as easily go entire weeks without even making a peep. Sasha Vujacic and Josh Powell can’t escape the bench and Phil Jackson never learned to trust DJ Mbenga.
A bench as inconsistent as the unit they won the last two titles with just wouldn’t get the job done against an All-NBA team like the one Miami is hoping to put together.
Though James’ arrival in Miami wouldn’t mark the first time in the last three years that an all-star shooting guard, small forward, and power forward joined forces, this trio has the potential and longevity to rule the NBA for the next half decade, unlike the Celtics’ big three.
Wade, is only 28 years old while James and Bosh clock in at 25 and 26 respectively. By contrast, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce were all over 30 prior to joining forces in Boston.
Besides, with all due respect to Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, neither player was of Wade or James’ caliber.
Realistically, the Lakers only have two or three more years of dominance left with the unit they have in place—3less if Kobe’s finger injury grows worse or Phil Jackson’s pending departure compromises the team’s chemistry.
But what if LeBron decides to head for Chicago or New York?
Well the Bulls would become instant title contenders, but not necessarily world-beaters. Though Derrick Rose is a phenomenal talent, particularly for his age, he’s never had to cater in his team leadership role.
Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah should make a formidable frontcourt, but not anything that the Lakers, or a slew of other teams, shouldn’t be able to handle. The possibility of LeBron landing in Chicago lost the majority of its luster when both Bosh and Wade were removed from the market.
If LeBron joins the Knicks, well, not only do the Lakers not have anything to worry about, neither do the Celtics or Magic.
Last and quite possibly least, what if LeBron decides to remain in Cleveland? What if his announcement is nothing more than a proclamation of love for his beloved state of Ohio?
In that case, this entire circus will have been a waste and we’ll have taken our eyes off the reigning NBA Champions for a possibility that didn’t even materialize. In that case, we will have turned our back on what was quite possibly the best Finals series of the last ten years and the best postseason storyline since the ’98 Finals all for nothing.
In that case, maybe the mainstream media will have learned that no player, no matter how great, is bigger than the glory of the NBA title. I'd love to believe that.
But I know better.