It’s obvious to anyone that the Los Angeles Lakers are a different team this year. They have fallen back in line with the rest of the pack in the Western Conference and, more than likely, won’t even finish with that conference’s best record.
The two-time defending champs have lost some of that championship swagger and their aura of invincibility.
It will remain to be seen if they can get that mojo back in the second half of the season.
But no matter where LA ends the regular season, this is still a dangerous team, this year more than ever.
They are like some old dog whose time you think has come. You know, the kind you can walk by and it doesn’t wake up. You think it might actually be time to put it down.
Well, the way many NBA followers seem to believe, the Lakers are that old dog. They are written off. Their time is done. LA won’t win it all. Kobe Bryant is old.
The bottom line of any of those storylines is that the Lakers are cooked. Stick a fork in them.
But, you’re messing with that old, dangerous dog. And, just because they look old doesn’t mean they can’t still bite.
No, the Lakers can still kill you, and they are still quite capable of cutting your throat.
This is why they are the league’s most dangerous team. And, here are the 10 reasons why.
As proven last year when wild-card Ron Artest joined the Lakers, the team’s leadership, headed by Coach Phil along with Kobe and D-Fish, keeps players focused on the final prize.
They’ve been down this road many times before and have a knack for staying locked on what is the real goal, not getting concerned with regular season drama.
Andrew Bynum is literally the Lakers' championship “X” factor.
He wasn’t at full strength during last season’s championship run but instead of bailing on his teammates, he grinded it out and played hurt.
He is a difference-maker when healthy and gives the Lakers that extra weapon to get the team over the hump. He also will be invaluable against teams like Dallas and San Antonio in the West and Boston and Orlando in the East.
Bynum changes LA and if he can make it to the playoff run in shape and healthy, the Lakers will be that much closer to a three-peat.
Say what you want about the Lakers and all their stumbles this year, but this team is still a defensive powerhouse.
They are 10th in the league in team D, holding opponents to 96.4 points per game. This compares to 97.0 and 99.3, respectively, from the prior two years' title runs.
The Lakers also score 103.4 points per game, making their point differential seven points, which is fourth-best in the NBA.
No matter what, LA has all the tools.
They are deep and Phil Jackson has a variety of lineups to throw at opposing teams.
They can go small and keep up with a running team.
They can go big and stick with a slow-down offense.
And, they have Ron Artest to guard the threes, the LeBron James and Paul Pierce types.
The Lakers are a very deep team, even deeper than last season.
With the three B’s coming off the bench in Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown and Steve Blake, the Lakers have a fantastic second unit.
That’s not to mention the league’s possible Sixth Man of the Year in Lamar Odom.
And, LA’s starting five matches up with any in the league. That is a deadly and dangerous combination.
Look, LA is the two-time defending NBA champion.
The Lakers have been to three straight NBA Finals. This is a team that isn’t concerned about the regular season.
They are seriously a “been there, done that” team.
Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher own five rings and Phil Jackson sits on the sideline with 11. They know what they are doing.
Jackson calls the NBA season a “marathon” and LA is merely pacing itself.
Come playoffs, that experience will pay off and make LA the league’s most dangerous team.
When healthy, the rotation of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom gives LA the advantage few teams can match.
The Lakers' length literally is a difference-maker and a game-changer.
As long as those three are healthy come playoffs, their length puts them over the top, especially when the game slows, even ever so slightly, in the playoffs.
Of any teams in the league, the Lakers need home court the least. They are quite capable, as well as have proven over the past few years, that they can win a playoff game on an opponent’s home floor.
This throws out the need to have the conference’s or league’s best record.
Because in a blink of an eye, LA can roll into San Antonio, Dallas or Oklahoma City, drive a nail in those teams' hearts, and walk out with a win.
Bye bye to all that regular season hard work for those teams.
LA can win a title without home-court advantage, especially during the Western Conference playoffs. This makes LA even more dangerous.
Experience does matter. And, the Lakers not only have that on the court, but on the sideline.
This is Jackson’s last season and make no mistake, his competitive fire still burns brightly. He’s got 11 rings but surely wants to end his amazing career with a dozen.
He is the league’s greatest coach and also its best button pusher. He’ll know what buttons to push to have LA primed for a championship run.
He’s a relentless preparation guy, and that’s why he sits on the sideline during games relaxed because he’s done the work before the game. He’ll have the Lakers ready and able.
Call Kobe Bryant whatever you want, but I’ll call him the league’s most dangerous player.
The more you doubt him, the more you should fear. That only adds fuel to his drive. He will figure out a way to win.
Look at last year’s playoff run. Jackson was quoted this year as saying he was “surprised [the Lakers] won” because of all of Kobe’s injuries.
Kobe is far healthier this year. Even if his knee isn’t fully recovered, and some suggest he’s lost some lift, it doesn’t matter.
He’ll adjust, adapt and figure out how to get through. He’s the league’s most fundamental player and can score no matter what.
His will to win makes the Lakers dangerous.
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