Familiar Ending: Top Ten Reasons the Lakers will Repeat again this Year
Ever since Lebron made his "decision" via televison show, the Heat have been the odds favorite to win it all this upcoming season. This may seem logical to some, but I have more than a few problems with that theory. The Los Angeles Lakers finished the 2010 season a strong team, and this offseason they have only gotten stronger.
While many teams have a chance to challenge the Lakers for the throne in 2011, I decided to make a list of the top ten reasons the Lakers will repeat again this season.
10. Odds Favor Bynum staying Healthy
Andrew Bynum is considered to be one of the premier centers in the NBA today. He is also considered one of the leagues most injury prone players, and deservedly so.
At a mere twenty-two years old, Andrew Bynum has only had one season of playing all 82 games. With this in mind, many would assume that another injury-plagued season awaits him this year. I propose the contrary. I believe that with the injuries he has sustained in the last three years, it is much more likely that he stays healthy this time around.
He has had a successful surgery earlier this summer, and is primed to be in top shape come next season. After many bizarre injuries, Bynum is due for a healthy productive season that sees him putting up the double doubles he averaged two years ago before he was sidelined. If Bynum can fire on all cylinders for L.A., they have a great chance of completing the three-peat.
9. The Thunder still aren't ready, yet.
Kevin Durant appears to be on the cusp of Mega stardom, and possibly nearing his first MVP trophy. Add this to the presence of rising star Russell Westbrook and the newly added depth found in Serge Ibaka, and one would think that the Thunder have the best chance in the Western Conference to take down the Los Angeles Lakers.
The only problem with this theory is the glaring fact that despite their plethora of talent, they still lack the necessary playoff experience to derail a team that practically lives at the Finals.
While the Thunder arguably presented the most competition to the Lakers in last year’s playoffs, Kevin Durant’s performance suffered. For the Thunder to get over the playoff hump, they will first need their dominant leader to excel under the bright lights.
The future for the Thunder is very bright however. Once Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook shake off the playoff pressure, their team will be ready to go deep into the summer for the foreseeable future. At this point their lack of experience serves as yet another reason L.A. will repeat, as no other team in the West has given L.A. such problems.
8. The Heat also need another Off-Season
The trio of Superstars that has been assembled in South Beach could prove to be one of the largest powerhouses in the leagues history. Their biggest problem thus far is actually not their lack of depth in the front court, but rather that the entire country has already crowned them champions of the 2010-2011 season.
This is a problem because this is not the megastar Heat’s fourth season we’re entering; it’s their first. That being the case, far too many questions abound to make such egregious predictions.
Can the Heat’s huge three stave off injuries for a possible 98 game campaign? If any one of the huge three were to go down for any significant injury, their title chances could nearly be cut in half. Add this to the knowledge we already have about Wade and Bosh’s injury prone states, and that is a probable roadblock.
Can the huge three gel together as well as they promise to? Everything could turn out hunky dory for the title chasing stars if they share possessions and shots well, but what happens if they don’t? Chemistry could turn bad in a hurry if one of the stars began to feel left out.
Just because the “big 3” in Boston did it, does not mean that any team of assembled premium players can.The second biggest deterrent to their championship hopes however, is their lack of a frontcourt.
Zyndrunas Ilgauskas, and Joel Anthony cannot successfully patrol the paint against the likes of Dwight Howard or the Lakers front line. They may have the newest mega-trio on the block, but they will need another offseason to bulk up their paint presence in order to hang with the leagues elite teams.
If they should meet the Lakers in the finals this or any year in the near future, they will need more options at the number four and five spots to defeat them.
7. Vujacic is enterting a Contract Year
Sasha Vujacic has been getting the much-deserved “cold shoulder” from Laker fans all over after two straight years of dismal performances and dipping statistics, prompting many to want his contract dumped.
This is a mistake, and let me tell you why he could be an integral part of next years title plans. Vujacic is entering a contract year this season, and as all know, players hoping to cash in on another NBA pay day usually go above and beyond in their contract season to cash in.
It’s true that his three point average has dipped from .437 to .309 in just two years time, but that statistic is likely to rebound big with the added motivation to ink another deal with the defending champs, or anyone else for that matter.
Sasha has proven to be a “machine” on offense when he has his shooting touch under control, and that makes him valuable coming off the bench for Kobe Bryant if he is hitting shots. A sports player having a comeback season is always far from guaranteed, but it seems likely in Sasha’s case, and would be very beneficial for this Laker squad in their hopes of a repeat.
6. The Addition of Matt Barnes
If he’s fearless, hard nosed, a former enemy, and a little unstable, he must be on Kobe’s team now.
The addition of Matt “ball fake” Barnes continues the trend set by Ron Artest, to make the Lakers a feared lock down defensive squad. Adding Barnes also greatly improves the depth of the already oceanic Lakers.
With Odom, Barnes, and now Fisher set to be on the Lakers new and improved Bench Mob, the Lakers have new hope for actually retaining and possibly adding to leads that are in tact when Kobe Bryant heads to the bench each night.
It remains unknown how much of an offensive presence Barnes will be, but like Artest, offense is not the reason we signed him. Barnes will be called on to disrupt opposing shooters flows, and provide momentum-changing steals, and he will be very good at it.
Adding one defensive stopper last year proved very beneficial in the back to back, adding another this year could cross the T on the Three-Peat.
5. A Healthy Kobe, is a deadly Kobe
Kobe Bryant has been plagued with a myriad of injuries the last three seasons, and has not had the time he has needed to recover.
The result of this was a Kobe who shot the ball at a lower percentage, a Kobe who had to adapt his style of play to remain effective, yet still a Kobe who hit big shots and won two championships.
Now that Kobe Bryant has sat out of this summers Fiba International play and opted for knee surgery instead, he has what has eluded him for a great while now, rest. If Kobe’s knee is back to normal come the beginning of this years campaign, his competitors will see a rejuvenated, and even deadlier Kobe Bryant.
Kobe kept himself relevant through his injuries by adding new moves to his arsenal. With his knee presumably healed now, he will be able to elevate sufficiently better, and add countless moves from his past back into his armamentarium.
He will not dunk nor ankle-break as he did in his teens, but weak legs will not hold him back either. The mileage on Kobe Bryant is undeniable, but so to is his will to win, especially when healthy.
4. The Addition of Steve Blake
We all knew the starting days of Fishers career couldn’t last forever, and with the Steve Blake acquisition they could be over before the season even starts.
Rumblings around the league indicate that Jackson intends to start Blake over Fisher as soon as the start of the 2010-2011 season. This is a major plus for the finals bound Lakers squad.
Blake brings to the Lakers a deadly ability to knock down open looks, a quick defensive presence, and a proficiency at running the triangle offense.
He will also spell Fisher, and allow him to be fresh late in the season when the Lakers need him most. Fishers' move to the bench mob will also increase its' integrity and effectiveness, a much needed development for the L.A. franchise.
3. The Return of The Fish
Many Laker fans were not nervous when the Miami Heat courted Derek Fisher early this offseason. They should have been. Besides Derek Fishers obvious ability to hit crunch time shots, he is also the vocal leader, and soul of this Laker’s squad.
Phil Jackson works his magic with mind games and Zen Philosophy, Kobe chooses to lead by fierce example, but Fisher is the glue that holds everything together.
He is the guy giving motivation to troubled players in the locker-room when it looks like hope is lost, and he is the one giving the priceless speeches come playoff time.
In short, he's their Denzel Washington. If the Lakers had lost Fisher, it would have done much more than deprive the Lakers of the leadership that resides in him, it would have given that power to the Heat.
The return of the Fish marks the return of the .04, the return of the crunch time three's, and the return of the Lakers innards. Had Fisher signed with the Heat or anyone else, the Lakers chances of three-peating would have been seriously diminished.
2. Kobe's Insatiable Hunger
Here we are six years and two titles after the departure of Shaquille O’Neal, and in Kobe’s mind frame, nothing has changed. Most players have been vacationing for months now, while Kobe has been in the gym.
Some players are living the Jet-set life, while Kobe is adding even more weapons to his arsenal. Some opt for sandy beaches and umbrella drinks, while Kobe prefers surgery and rehabilitation.
As he suits up for his 15th NBA season, nothing has changed in the mindset of Kobe Bryant. He still wants to win it all, and he still doesn’t care about who you have added to your team, or the trash you care to talk. While most people can’t believe what has happened in South Beach this summer, Kobe has only been focusing on how he will beat them.
He will adjust his game, tweak his attacks, and beautifully orchestrate their destruction with his careful planning and attention to detail. He will do this because he has no regard for second place.
He cares not about how many titles he possesses, but only how many more he can obtain. He will wake up earlier, and work harder than you because he is no ordinary man. Kobe Bryant has an insatiable hunger for winning and greatness that this league has not seen since Michael Jordan.
1. The Return of Phil Jackson
No one, (maybe not even his players) knows exactly what makes Phil Jackson such a brilliant coach. Could it bee the Zen influences and incense that he burns in the locker-room? I’m sure keeping the players calm and open-minded helps, but I doubt it’s the brilliant secret.
Maybe it’s the mind games he plays on every member of the NBA, including his own players. Using clever comments at the opportune moment could sway the mindset of important individuals. But again, this is not where his brilliance lies.
Some would say it’s his ability to handle and control the most difficult personalities professional basketball has ever seen. He successfully tamed Rodman, Artest, and managed the Mega-ego’s of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal.
Others still would insist that it’s his overwhelming knowledge of the game that includes eleven NBA coaching titles and two player titles, that makes him such an effective leader of an NBA squad.
I believe that it’s not any one of these aspects, but the fact that he has managed to master all of them.
If you take a good hard look around the NBA’s stable of coaches, you will indeed find great minds that possess some of these attributes, which make Phil Jackson so great, but none of them have it all.
The departure of Phil Jackson in my opinion would have dropped the Lakers three-peat hopes next to zero percent. Think of it this way; If you took the brain out of a Lion, how well would it be able to hunt?
This is not to say the Lakers will never win a title after Phil Jackson retires. This only asserts that this Laker squad needs him to continue to win. Their bonds are forged with him. Their trust lies in him, and their play is propelled by him. That is why the return of Phil Jackson is the number one reason why the Lakers will repeat again this year.