What a difference a few months make. By obtaining Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to join all-stars Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, the Los Angeles Lakers' plans during the 2012 off-season was to create the most stacked starting five in the NBA, ideally making them the most dominant team in the league.
However, like most laid plans of mice, men and any basketball executive named Buss, things did not turn out the way it was dreamed of for the Lakers' brass. The regular season kicked off, and suddenly, reality set in; there was dysfunction among the five powerhouses, which resulted in a lack of results on the court.
For a brief moment, the projected dominance that was the Lakers' starting unit began to diminish.
In a surprising turn of events, Gasol began experiencing constant injuries, which began limiting his playing time. In what seemed to be an act of desperation, head coach Mike D'Antoni decided to start Earl Clark, a lesser-known part of the blockbuster trade that brought D12 to LA.
Strangely enough, the subtraction of Gasol and the addition of Clark to the starting lineup proved something that almost no one saw coming: It was actually working. The Hollywood lineup (all puns intended) was not-so-Hollywood anymore, and that was OK.
Clark seized the opportunity to prove himself as the proverbial little fish in basketball's version of Lake Superior, immediately demonstrating that he can indeed hang with the big boys, which includes a surefire future hall-of-famer in its ranks.
Since adding Clark to the starting five, the Lakers have gained some serious momentum, dating back prior to the all-star break, boasting wins over the Boston Celtics, the Dallas Mavericks and the Atlanta Hawks, in true Lakers fashion.
As a whole, LA's five-man unit has finally begun to mesh. Bryant is accepting his role as the team's facilitator, while continuing to be the beast in the clutch that he is trademarked for. Nash can finally be the added help he was brought on to be. Howard is progressively learning to return to his dominant ways on defense. And speaking of defensive dominance, World Peace is finally showing us a side of him that we haven't seen since his last name was Artest.
It would be safe to say that no one has enjoyed seeing these changes come to fruition more than the Black Mamba himself. As a player who has had the opportunity to share the court alongside legends like Shaquille O'Neal, Derek Fisher, Gary Payton and Karl Malone (and that was all in one season!), Bryant has got to be thrilled at this recent adaptation of the Lake Show.
Those of us who grew up idolizing our favorite superheroes remember the Justice League of America: Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Aquaman finally coming together to make their presence known. LA's previous starting five could have easily been compared to this super team. Now, imagine the same analogy, but now, Aquaman is gone and has been replaced with Robin, a smaller hero that can still pack a punch; this is the Lakers' lineup as it currently stands with Clark in the mix.
This slightly-modified Lakers lineup surely has us all believing in unlikelihoods. There is something about this unit, that for lack of a better word, just works. The Lakers' chances of going all the way may still be a bit of a long shot, but hey, at least they're finally on the way there.