Kobe Bryant has once again led the Lakers to the NBA Finals. He will have another chance to silence every critic who ever doubted his playing ability over the next two weeks. This Lakers team has been on a mission all year long, and there's no stopping them now.
The Lakers have been a dominant force out West all year. Finishing with a record of 65-17 gives them home-court advantage in the Finals. The format changes in the Finals, with home games in Games One, Two, Six, and Seven and away in Games Three, Four, and Five. With that being said, it's important the Lakers don't get down early in the series, knowing they have to go to Orlando for three straight games.
Bryant is having another marvelous season. It's seems like no matter what's happening, he is always making his team better. Bryant is a veteran now and continues to play team basketball that helps big men like Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum down low.
Lamar Odom has picked up his intensity level throughout the end of the regular season and the playoffs. He's become an important part of the Lakers' game plan in how he is able to score by attacking the rim and the tough defense he plays on the other end. When Odom rebounds and runs the floor well, it's a good sign for the Lakers.
Trevor Ariza has been lights out during the postseason. He's shooting 50 percent from three point range (30-for-60). He gives it his all when he's on the floor and has become a spark plug off the bench. His shooting ability and in your face defense is an asset off the bench for any coach.
Bynum hasn't had a great postseason since coming back from a knee injury earlier in the year. At times this season Bynum has played stretches where he looked like an All-Star. The duo down low of Bynum and Gasol is going to have to be physical if they want to be successful in taking down the monster that is Dwight Howard.
Derrick Fisher is the lefty that does it all for this Lakers team. He does a tremendous job of establishing the tempo and speed that L.A. wants to play at. Fisher has the ability to knock down the three-point shot or dish on an assist in the triangle offense.
Gasol is the player to keep your eyes on the most during this series. The way he plays Orlando's big men and his ability to stop guards from penetrating the lane will go a long way in leading the Lakers to a 15th NBA title.
The Lakers need to push the pace throughout the series. They need to be the aggressor and dictate both the tempo and rhythm. During the playoffs the Lakers are 11-2 when they score 100 or more points. If Bryant is knocking down his shots and the big men are controlling the paint, it could be a bad sign for Dwight & Co.
Bryant already has three championship rings, but this is the year he shows everyone out there that he's the real deal. Winning with Shaq was always nice, but Kobe wants to go down in history with the greatest of all time like Jordan, Bird, and Magic.
If the Lakers are able to defeat this Orlando Magic team, this NBA title would go a long way on the Kobe Bryant resume. Arguably Bryant is in the prime of his career, and his stats don't lie. What a picture it would be to see Kobe raise the NBA trophy.
There is also this coach by the name of Phil Jackson on the Lakers' bench. The man that led Michael Jordan to his six titles and has already won three with the Lakers duo of Kobe and Shaq. Jackson has this team playing flawless basketball, and there's no reason they can't get by Stan Van Gundy and his pesty Magic team.
Bryant has a chance to go down as the greatest player ever to play basketball. He's already had a successful career and will be 31 in August. After last year's series defeat to the Celtics, Kobe and his team have gotten back to the place where it all came crashing down: the NBA Finals.
The Lakers have built up an extremely talented team over the last few years. They've gotten production from a variety of players and formed a core nucleus of players. 2009 will end up being the year of the Los Angeles Lakers. It's time for Jackson & Co. to win that NBA title they've desperately been waiting for.