As the 2010-2011 NBA season draws near, the Los Angeles Lakers look primed for another championship run with a deeper and meaner roster. The Lakers added more firepower in their lineup after acquiring Steve Blake, Theo Ratliff, and Matt Barnes in the offseason.
General manager Mitch Kupchak seems very much aware of the threat on South beach, so he slightly tweaked their roster to maximize the team’s defensive capacity without compromising their efficient offensive game.
The Lakers are once again set for a month-long training camp in El Segundo, California this September. With another NBA title on their mind, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the purple and gold squad would certainly push themselves to the limit, as they try to reach their peak form after a long layoff.
Court leadership will remain intact in the Lakers backcourt after successfully re-signing veteran guard Derek Fisher. Fisher and the Lakers had failed talks early in the offseason, but in the end the 14-year veteran decided to value loyalty despite lucrative offers from several NBA contenders, including the Miami Heat.
Of course, Kupchak did not forget to retain the service of high-flying swingman Shannon Brown, who averaged 8.1 points and 2.2 boards as Bryant’s backup man last season. The only significant casualty for the Lakers this offseason was guard Jordan Farmar.
After four solid seasons with the Lakers, the former UCLA star will be trying his luck with the rebuilding New Jersey Nets. Although the East made aggressive moves to upgrade their rosters, many observers believed the Lakers are still the team to beat this coming season.
Buss not pushing panic button
As usual, Lakers head honcho, Jerry Buss, is expecting his team to once again deliver the goods. Despite the star-studded additions to the Heat roster, Buss feels the Lakers have still the best chance of any teams to capture the NBA title.
Moreover, Buss thinks this year’s lineup is the best they’ve had in the past three seasons. Aside from the Heat, the Lakers boss added he also looks forward to playing against the Boston Celtics, who recently acquired former Lakers stalwart Shaquille O’Neal.
There’s so much bad blood between the Lakers and the Celtics and it would be interesting how O’Neal (who has so much history with Bryant) will add more flares to this storied rivalry.
Matchup against the Heat
Obviously, the Heat gained so much press (and flack) after hitting the jackpot in the free-agency lottery. The power trio of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade will certainly encounter some kind of adversity, as they go deep into the season.
Nevertheless, NBA analysts admitted the talent level in Miami is too much for the rest of the league to handle Only a handful of teams are expected to go toe-to-toe with the Heat, one of them are the Lakers.
The Los Angeles Lakers won last season’s NBA title and they are looking forward to a three-peat. A few months ago, winning a third consecutive championship seemed inevitable for the defending champs. But with Miami’s newfound firepower, the Lakers’ road to the third ring will surely be wild and woolly from October’s opening tiff to a possible June’s final showdown.
Blake, Ratliff, Barnes make Lakers much better defensive team
The Lakers’ triangle offense is expected to stay potent as ever after Phil Jackson decided to return on the sideline for another year. Bryant and Pau Gasol, the team’s one-two punch, will now have a much fresher body after engaging in a physically gruelling seven-game final series against the Celtics.
Nevertheless, the Lakers always put on their mind that defense wins championships. This is the primary reason why the Lakeshow acquired players like Blake, Ratliff, and Barnes.
More known for outside shooting, Blake has been an underrated defensive stud throughout his career. Blake uses his good positioning and lanky body to bait or flop for charging fouls from his opponents. He will play as the Lakers second point guard behind Fisher.
Ratliff, on the other hand, has established himself as a shot blocking demon through 15 NBA seasons. The 6-foot-10 Ratliff averaged 2.4 blocks and was twice named in the NBA All-defensive second team. He will sparingly be used as a reliever to injury-prone Andrew Bynum.
And lastly, Barnes, arguably the Lakers’ most significant acquisition this summer, will likely share minutes with Ron Artest at small forward. Though not as strong as Artest, the feisty veteran is easily one of the best defenders in the league.
Without a doubt, the Lakers are up for the toughest 82-game regular season schedule in three years. The pressures will even more increase, when the postseason comes. Still, as coach Rudy Tomjanovich says “never underestimate the heart of the champion.” Indeed, the Lakers are the defending champ and defense will take them over the hump this season.
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