The buzz around the NBA centers around Kobe Bryant and the championship prowess of his Los Angeles Lakers. Questions stir as to how much longer does this current unit have at the elite level.
Since February 2007, when Pau Gasol was traded to Los Angeles, the Lakers have been one of the NBA’s top teams. In fact, they have been to three straight NBA Finals and walked away with the last two trophies.
But doubt has arisen in LA by both the team’s play this season as well as comments from Lakers past.
Recently, Laker legend and the NBA Logo himself Jerry West has questioned how much longer LA has before their championship window closes. West was quoted as saying, “You can’t change players' tires,” when he referred to the miles logged by Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher.
It is true?
The Lakers are the league’s second-oldest team.
But, is their window really closing?
Here are five aspects to address regarding their championship aspirations, this season and beyond.
Make no doubt, the Lakers are owned and run by the best owner in all of professional sports.
Dr. Jerry Buss was the genius behind Showtime in the 1980s and he was the architect of the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant to LA summer of 1996.
Buss also is the current owner who opens up his pocket book unlike any other NBA owner to win championships.
He was also willing to trade Shaq while the great was still in his prime. (Shaq ended up winning a ring for the Miami Heat.) Buss made the daring move, hitching his hopes to Kobe Bryant and the move has more than paid off.
Dr. Buss is a notorious gambler and count on him to never sit still. If the Lakers even seem to be slipping, he’ll call for new cards.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has made his own mark as one of the league’s best.
The Pau Gasol trade cemented Kupchak as a man who isn’t afraid to pull off bold deals. He also drafted center Andrew Bynum.
Just this week, Kupchak was quoted as saying he “wouldn’t rule out a trade this season.”
This is a man who works for an owner who wants nothing short of NBA titles. Kupchak has plenty of cards to deal and he will make a move.
He might already be up to something, if the murmurs are even remotely true. Steve Nash, Carmelo Anthony and even Chris Paul are names that have been thrown around.
Most fans simply laugh it off or call it ludicrous, but Kupchak prides himself flying under the radar.
That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised if he somehow pulls off a coup and lands a top player.
Even with his bone bruise after this past Sunday's Boston Celtics game, the window for Laker championships remains firmly open as long as Drew is healthy.
In fact, the window even swings open wider the better Bynum plays.
There are no great centers in the West after Yao Ming has hung up his shoes. Bynum is heir apparent and he will fulfill.
He has matured and if he can really put the past injuries behind, he is a future All-Star. I know that is still a big "if", especially with another injury, but this one is minor.
If he stays healthy, the Lakers can win many more championships, even after the Kobe Bryant era.
Since Pau Gasol's arrival in LA, the Lakers have been at the top of the league. Nothing has changed.
He changed everything in LA and continues to do so. He’s just turned 30 and productive.
He’ll ride along during this Kobe Bryant era, but he might even be around afterwards.
Pau is the perfect fit in LA, and with the amount of salaries the Lakers and their owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, have been willing to dole out, there will be no shortage of pieces for LA to fit around Paul.
Don’t count out Kobe. I sure don't. His game might change but he is the league's most fundamental player and natural born scorer. He'll find a way to get it done. He only uses your doubt as fuel.
And don’t count out the championship window. Kobe is only 32.
The player Kobe is most compared with, Michael Jordan, won his last ring at 36. That’s four more years of contesting for championship. End of story.
Not to mention that Kobe, as he ages, has young Andrew Bynum, who, when healthy, is one of the league’s top centers. Add to that Pau Gasol, and Kobe still has a solid supporting cast.
Four years and beyond. That is all that matters in LA. Kobe is the main reason why the championship window for the Lakers isn't remotely closing.
Want to learn the details of Kobe Bryant’s legendary work ethic? Or why Kobe considers himself a “talented overachiever” or an “outcast” for much of his life? Check out the new book, The Kobe Code: Eight Principles For Success- An Insider's Look into Kobe Bryant's Warrior Life & the Code He Lives By, at www.PatMixon.com.