Congratulations to the 2010 Los Angeles Lakers!
After an epic Game 7 battle, which in many ways summed up the series as a whole, the Lakers Nations celebrates their hard-fought and well deserved victory.
Nothing is sweeter than being a Lakers fan right now, and it's not just because of that golden-balled-trophy that now belongs to LA.
I was thinking to myself last night, on the eve of Game 7, that, win or lose, the Lakers have more reason to be optimistic than any other team in the league for the next two seasons or so.
For starters, with 2010 title in hand, the Lakers can enjoy their vacation, knowing that their they've finally shaken the gorilla on their back. The lesson that was inflicted on them in 2008 has come full circle. They can play next season with a clean slate.
Further, most of the major question marks hanging over their heads for much of the season may have been legitimately answered, in part.
Is Derek Fisher too old and gets punished by quick point guards too often?
Fish's team came out on top against the likes of Steve Nash and Deron Williams, while against the likes of Westbrook and Rondo, the Lakers were able to effectively switch Kobe onto the opposing PG instead, confirming their blueprint for future success against dominating point guards. Fish, meanwhile, further displayed his penchant for the big moments.
If and when Fish is supplanted as the starting PG, I'd remain confident he'll maintain close to the exact same stats and intangible contributions (charges taken, clutch shots, leadership) in reduced minutes.
Let's not waste too much time on this one. Check his stats for the playoffs. Check his finger for that 5th ring. Check his trophy cabinet for the Finals MVP hardware. The man is a beast. And with some rest this summer (hopefully) he should come back significantly fresher and healthier.
Pau is too soft?
Another huge monkey off the back with Pau's "toughness" issues addressed. Pau came up huge (aside from one game) in the finals. 19 points, 18 rebs and two blks in a gritty game 7? Yes, Pau can play ugly too.
Artest is going to have a meltdown?
Artest was extremely well behaved, and played his role for the most part. I'll admit, this one will always remain a question mark--he could meltdown next year, for all we know--but at least he's proven he can maintain his composure for significant periods of time, and in key situations.
Bynum is too injury prone?
Well, yes, but this is nothing new for the Lakers. But if you can win titles with limited contributions from Bynum, then who cares how oft-injured he is? One thing that I was impressed with was his willingness to play through pain, and adapt to his role as an impact player to be used in spurts. Tough thing to do for a young player.
In addition to answering their own questions, the Laker should also benefit from all the questions hanging over the other teams.
BOSTON: The Big 3 yet another year older. Rondo's weaknesses exploited by the Lakers shows every other team how to beat them. Will Ray Allen return? Is Doc Rivers gone? Is Sheed retiring? Tom Thibodeau is gone, will their defense be as good?
CLEVELAND: Coachless, Danny Ferry gone, Shaq another year older, Big Z another year older. There was something else, what was it? Oh yeah. LeBron might be gone.
ORLANDO: Do they make major changes? What do they do with the Vince Carter experiment? How long before someone is shot for the awful Rashard contract? Barnes is a free agent, can they afford to pay him?
EVERYBODY ELSE OUT WEST: The Lakers are clearly in another class, but if we must be specific: Denver (George Karl's health), Portland (Greg Oden's health), Houston (Yao Ming's health), San Antonio (Duncan and Manu's age), Phoenix (Amare's contract), Utah (too small and possibly losing Boozer), OKC (too young), Dallas (do they make major changes?)
On top of all that, the Lakers must still be considered front runners in any Chris Bosh sign and trade deals. Assuming Bosh will only agree to go to a contender, does Houston, Dallas or any of the other would-be contenders have enough to offer Toronto without significantly weakening their core?
Picture this. The Lakers decide to swing for the grand slam and offer up a package revolving around Bynum for Bosh. The Raptors have to at least listen, right? Bynum, a young, potential franchise centre and the perfect complement to the likes of Bargnani and Turk and Calderon, would have to be more attractive than a Shane Battier-Chuck Hayes package or a Dampier's contract package.
The Lakers have already shown they don't need Bynum to win. Imagine a lineup of Pau-Bosh-Artest-Kobe-Fish. Yikes. And even if it's not Bosh, the Lakers could offer Bynum up for any number of veteran stars looking to join a contender. Short of that, the Lakers could hold onto Bynum again, and take another roll of the injury dice, and see what comes up.
Lord knows they can afford to, given their back to back titles with little help from him, and the state of the other teams.
As things currently stand, no team stands higher for next season than the Lakers do.
Unless of course LeBron and Bosh decide to join D-Wade...