L.A. Lakers' Pivot Points: Five Potholes On The Road To A Repeat, Part 2

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer INovember 9, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25:  Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts to a foul next to Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the forth quarter at the Staples Center on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers defeated the Spurs 99-85.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The first installment in this series dealt with the Denver Nuggets and the challenges they presented to the Los Angeles Lakers in their quest for a repeat. 

The Nuggets are one of two Western Conference teams that possess certain qualities that could counter the Lakers dominance. The only other team with a realistic chance is probably the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs have the same advantages as the Nuggets, namely depth, and quickness at the point guard position, but in contrast they are much more powerful in the paint than Denver.

Their post strength starts with superstar Tim Duncan, but unlike past years the Spurs have a dearth of possibilities to choose from after Duncan.

Duncan is arguably the best power forward the game has ever seen and continues to remain at the top of his game today.

His dominant consistency is often over-shadowed by his low-key personality, which makes it easy to sometimes forget about Duncan when discussing the game's best.

Make no mistake though, once Duncan is on the court it's impossible to understate his presence. He wears No. 21, and he's the one with the fundamentally perfect game.

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Duncan is equally effective on both ends of the floor and has some of the best footwork that I have ever seen for a big man.

In past years, the Spurs would face a significant drop-off in talent once Duncan was relegated to the bench, but the twin combo of rookie Dejuan Blair and experienced veteran Antonio McDyess nullifies that.

Some circles consider Blair to be the steal of the draft, and if that is true then the same could be said of McDyess when referencing free agency.

McDyess brings post and perimeter scoring, is a proven rebounder, is tough on the defensive end, and has a veteran's savvy to go along with the rest of the experienced Spurs.

He has been a member of a championship team so he understands the sacrifice that it takes to realize that moment again. He is likely a perfect fit for this San Antonio team.

Blair has arrived in the league full steam ahead and with a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder. Most teams shied away from him because of a history of knee problems and the fact that he is undersized in the post.

Blair has used that as motivation and so far his play has far out-weighed his lack of height. He may be height-depraved but he has used his considerable girth to average 10 points and over seven rebounds per game.

Blair's quick assimilation to the NBA game will allow the Spurs to use McDyess sparingly, which should help down the road when the games become critical and his presence is needed more.

The Spurs' back court is very familiar to the Lakers with one added caveat, the acquisition of swingman Richard Jefferson. Jefferson gives the Spurs the athleticism that they had been missing in their guard play.

He's a much better offensive threat than the departed Bruce Bowen, and although he's not as good a defender he still has the tools to be the best defender in the Spurs rotation.

Manu Ginobili has been a constant thorn in the Lakers' side with his seemingly out-of-control play. He is an opportunistic defensive player with the skills to get to the rim or shoot from distance.

The combination of Jefferson and Ginobili could present match-up problems for the Lake Show, especially when you add point guard Tony Parker to the mix.

If Ginobili has been a thorn for the Lakers then Parker has been the entire bush. Simply put, the Lakers have no answer for Parker on the defensive end.

He is able to penetrate the Lakers' defense at will and is equally adept at getting to the rim or pulling up for a short jumper. His improved outside shot means the Lakers can no longer play off him in hopes of denying a path to the rim.

The talented Spurs team is held together by the glue of coach Gregg Popovich. He is arguably the second best coach in the league and a master of in-game strategies.

He has total respect from his players and his fiery personality and charisma keep the Spurs motivated. Other than Los Angeles, the ability to stay healthy may be the Spurs biggest foe.

Injuries have hampered San Antonio in recent years and the probability that they will recur is something that people have to be thinking about. It's not like they are getting any younger.

Duncan and Ginobili are 33 and 32, respectively and both have been injury-prone in the last couple of years. McDyess is 34, Jefferson is 29, and Parker is 27. Not really bad, but coupled with the fact they are no strangers to injury it has to make you leery.

If the Spurs can manage to avoid the injury bug, do they have the roster to compete with the talented Lakers? Potentially, yes, but avoiding injuries that damage their team and chemistry is not something the Spurs have proven they can do.

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