Posts Tagged ‘kobe bryant’

Lakers A Work in Progress?

November 7, 2014

Nope! It’s still not time to panic. The Lakers have jumped out to a historically bad start and even as we fans have reason to freak out, we have to keep things in perspective. Seriously, perhaps I’m only living up to my name. But remember, I’m the Lakers Optimist.

The Lakers hobbled into the season after a myriad on injuries robbed them of their time to gel. Lin did not play in the starting lineup until the last couple games on pre-season. Chemistry is still settling in.

The Lakers, ready or not, took on a well prepared Houston Rockets team. During that drubbing they lost Julius Randle and took a deflated effort to Phoenix where Phoenix fully took advantage. They then proceeded to take on the Clippers and Warriors in back to back games, really learning on the fly. 4 games in 5 nights against playoff contenders. Hey, they could have won those last two.

So it’s not the fairest sample size, is it?
The question is, should Lakers fans panic? Nah. Each game they are getting better at playing together. Defensively they need a lot of work, but notice an increased effort each game. The team isn’t incapable. It’s learning. The learning curve is extremely high being that it’s the season, but they will get better and hit their stride.

What must happen?

Lin and Boozer must help Kobe. Lin and Kobe must help Hill and Boozer on defense. Lin has to attack relentlessly and keep defenses on their heels. Boozer must run towards the basket and stop settling for that jumpshot.

Price needs to run the offense and lead the defense of the second unit. The bench mob has to back up the starters. They completely floundered against Phoenix when the starters actually did well!

They have an opportunity against the Hornets on Sunday to start the winning culture. I fully expect them to turn it around. Lakers fans are the most impatient fans in the league, but we’ll have to be.

Don’t panic yet. Byron, Kobe and company will get it right.

Stay tuned!

The Redemption Season Begins for Lakers

October 28, 2014

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“….Flush it. Next season will be epic”
–Kobe Bryant on Twitter

Lakers fans endured a long summer watching other teams not named the Lakers compete for basketball royalty, waiting to see what happens to D’antoni, watching to see what pick we get in the lottery, watching to see who we pick, waiting to see our roster and watching to see who will usher in the new Laker era.

Now it begins. The redemption season.

Starring Kobe Bryant. Redemption for him is to be the dominant force he was before the season ending injuries. He wants to prove it to himself, but personally I want him to shut up the pundits and the haters. He has something to prove and nothing to prove all as once.

Also starring Jeremy Lin. Jeremy Lin has put LinSanity to rest in favor of Lintertaining. Redemption for Lin is returning to relevancy as a top tier point guard. In Houston they benched him for poor defense. Lin wants to show he is in fact a good defender. The opportunity is his for the taking.

Featuring Carlos Boozer. Much like Lin, Boozer was benched in Chicago for lack of defense. Boozer has been considered aging and on a downturn. Perhaps his redemption is to prove he is that spring chicken he claims to be. Byron’s given him that starting role to do that.

Add in Ed Davis who fought for minutes in Memphis, Julius Randle who should’ve gone earlier in the draft and Jordan Clarkson who should have gone in the first round.

The Lakers have always had their haters and this year the pundits are wasting countless articles on negative views and predictions. I know because I read them.

This year is will be different. Yes. Very different.

The pre-season saw a Laker team that really moved up the learning curve quickly. The team has begun to take on a defensive identity. Lin and Price are proven solid point guards that were missing for years. Ed Davis has proven himself to be a rim protector. Hill has been Hill. Kobe is back. Really. Randle is settling into the game.

The team is buying into Byron’s philosophy and taking on his personality.

This team will be dangerous even as they await the return of Nick Young, Xavier Henry and Ryan Kelly. Kobe and Lin’s ability to create their own shot will create problems for defenses. Boozer and Hill will create havoc on the glass. Davis off the bench will patrol the paint and Price will provide a tenacious 2nd unit defensively. Randle will grow to be a confident offensive threat.

The Lakers will have to maintain as much familiarity within their rotations. Chemistry is huge. They have to minimize defensive breakdowns and really consistently contest shots, create havoc and muddy up the game.

Every game is a statement game. This first one is no different. I don’t believe Kobe has to run this offense. Kobe doesn’t believe that either. This is a team game and expect that this season. Expect team defense. And I expect them to win a bunch of games, starting tonight.

Lakers play Houston tonight at 7:30. Let’s see how the Scott-Bryant era begins.

Lakers Upgrades to Look For

October 6, 2014

Contrary to what the pundits have said, the Lakers have serious upgrades from last year which promises a significant turnaround from last year– a playoffs type of turnaround. And here’s why:

Byron Scott. The coaching change is already paying dividends simply in the changed culture of the team. D’antoni was very much an more passive coach, who never seemed really sure of himself. Pau Gasol many times complained of discipline lacking. This team needed something very different for a place like L.A. and a team like the Lakers. The conditioning and defense-first approach will affect the personnel that takes the court first and foremost. Whether or not they are a team of defensive specialists, they will put forth efforts, implement defensive schemes and play defense by committee. Just watching practices and interviews point a new attitude and a changing culture. Look for that to translate onto the court.

Byron Scott as an analyst noticed time and time again how players like Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill were not used where they could be successful. Wes guarded power forwards and stayed around three point line. Hill saw fluctuation in playing time in favor of a stretch four. Bigs just were not used correctly. D’antoni force-fed run and gun offense on a team that needed to feed the ball down low to control tempo and keep teams from easy transition buckets. Expect the change in offense to put players in a position to be successful, decrease transition and increase paint points. Not as exciting as D’antoni but wins are much more fun.

The Return of Kobe and Nash. Funny how those words mean nothing to the pundits. There will be a huge increase in offensive production as well as more control of tempo. These guys are a step slower but there’s no doubt that this is a major upgrade.

Point Guard Position. The point guard position got much younger and faster. Jeremy Lin is not far removed from Linsanity. He brings an ability to create his own shot, get to the basket quickly and create shots for others. Nash will start but Lin will see plenty of minutes. The Lakers also managed to nab Ronnie Price and Jordan Clarkson who will both add more depth at that position and back up Nash. Needless to say, there is less likely of a chance for blow-bys on the perimeter with these younger, quicker point guard additions.

With the loss of Gasol, Lakers still managed to shore up the power forward/center position with future star Julius Randle, all-star forward Carlos Boozer and newly added Ed Davis. Scoring may have dipped but rebounding and paint protection took a major upgrade. Rob Sacre also can provide an effective 7-footer in spurts.

Look for a more controlled, organized, defensive-minded team that can rebound effectively. Look for a priceless mentorship from Nash, Kobe and Boozer that will show up on the court. Goran Dragic was a product of being under the tutelage of Steve Nash. Look for less transition by the other teams and increased post play.

Finally, look for a stunned panel of naysayers who placed the Lakers in the nba cellar. The Lakers Optimist said so.

Lakers Training Camp Notes

October 4, 2014

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Kobe and Nash look good in practice

After 4 days of training camp we are learning more about the 2014-2015 Lakers. Unfortunately, the Lakers will most likely start the season without Swaggy P (torn thumb ligament) and Ryan Kelly (stained hamstring). Xavier Henry is still dealing with back spasms.

However, Byron Scott is focused on conditioning, defense and mastery of the Princeton offense. Players are responding and an identity is forming slowly but surely. This is definitely a new day in Lakertown. Kobe said he’s never run that much in a practice his whole career. Byron insists that they will not lose by running out of gas in the 4th quarter.

Kobe and Nash are both looking like themselves according to reporters, coaches and players. The younger players seem very open to learning from veterans like Bryant, Nash and Boozer.

Players that have become favorites thus far include, Jordan Clarkson and Ronnie Price offensively and defensively.

It looks like the starting five will be Nash, Bryant, Johnson, Boozer and Hill. The bench is very competitive and up for grabs especially with Young out. Expect Wayne Ellington, Ronnie Price and Wes Johnson to see more minutes in Young’s absence as they try to manage Kobe’s minutes.

Scott’s first dilemma is settling on a rotation that will not include Swaggy P before their first pre-season game against the Denver Nuggets.

I believe a lot of questions will be answered in these 8 games. What I look for is the defensive rotations and rebounding ability. Last year’s ominous sign in pre-season was their inability to rebound. Also, we get a good look at Kobe and Nash in action and see the strengths and weaknesses of the starting lineup.

Lakers play Denver on Monday at 7pm Pacific on Timewarner Cable Sportsnet.

Lakers Will Take a Page from Poppovich’s Book This Season

September 14, 2014

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Lakers coach Byron Scott is getting close to penciling in his starting 5. He has hinted that Kobe and Nash would be starting backcourt, Boozer and Hill in the frontcourt and maybe Wesley Johnson at small forward.

Then we heard that Nash may not be starting. Then we heard, and this makes the most sense, that the starters would be confirmed after training camp.

Everybody expressed their discontent with Byron’s decision to choose veterans over youth to start games. They complain that players won’t be able to develop coming off the bench, namely Randle, Lin and Clarkson.

On a smaller level, we have the potential for a Spurs type of rotation, where the starters, namely the vets will be relied upon to start the game and to finish games and the bench will indeed receive the bulk of the minutes to keep Kobe, Nash and even Boozer fresh throughout the season. This is perhaps why they loaded up on power forwards, guards and point guards.

So it really doesn’t matter if the veterans start. Jeremy Lin and Julius Randle will get plenty of minutes to develop. More importantly, the Lakers bench will get the opportunity to become that benchmob that we saw last year before they were decimated with injuries.

I expect to see Nash play only 25 minutes maximum, giving Lin the bulk of minutes. Clarkson should be seen in spurts. An increase in Clarkson minutes should only come if he earns it, not because of last resort. Kobe will also see 30-35 minutes tops in favor of Nick Young taking the bulk of those minutes. Lastly, Randle will also be seeing valuable minutes backing up Boozer.

Lakers possess a young athletic group that will be called on to support the veterans throughout much of the season. Whether or not they can do it is going to be huge.

Do we have the talent to accomplish this? The jury is out on that. But I’m The Lakers Optimist so I expect greatness. Stay tuned. Pre-season begins October 6th against Denver Nuggets.

Let’s see who starts.

Question Marks For Lakers This Season – My Answer is Yes!

August 23, 2014

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Lakers will shock people this year

The Lakers are expected by everybody to stink again! This is a view held by both Lakers fans and Lakers NOTfans. The question is why. If I may be so cryptic, question is the answer.

QUESTIONS. There are questions about almost every aspect of the Lakers team, and because there are no answers until about 10 games into the season perhaps (maybe even all-star break) many are either being pessimistic in true Lakerhaters form or cautiously pessimistic to protect themselves from disappointment.

But forget all that! I’m the Lakers Optimist! So I’m going to answer your questions the only way I know how.

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Kobe will be Vino this year

1. Kobe: Will he be Kobe? Yes. Kobe will be extremely effective, adjusting his game to be a very dominant post player. Look, Kobe hasn’t played but 6 games last year. The last thing anybody wants is a rested and justifiably vengeful Black Mamba. He will motivate his team, shoot when he needs to, command double teams and effectively pass out of them, creating open looks and highlight reels for the other rim-attacking teammates.

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Nash will finish his career strong

2. Nash: Will Nash be useful? Yes. Nash will finish his illustrious career strong mostly in a catch and shoot role. The nerve irritation is an afterthought and he is ready to contribute to this team in 25 minute bursts whether starting or coming off the bench. I expect Lin to be the main man, but in Byron’s offense, both guards are ball handlers. Needless to say, Nash will be Vino Blanco (did i say that right?)

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Byron Scott poised to lead Lakers

3. Byron: Can he be the guy? Yes. The two important factors for a successful coach is making players buy in and making your stars buy in. A great resume and experience are what contribute to that. Byron Scott is a Laker great so he’s invested. He has three championships so he knows how to get em. He has won coach of the year, working with Chris Paul. He took Jason Kidd and the Nets to two straight Eastern Conference titles. Lastly, he played with and mentored Kobe is his rookie year. I fully expect players to listen to and respect B. Scott from Kobe on down. I expect Byron to lead players like Wesley Johnson and Jeremy Lin to extremely successful seasons. Bear in mind that he saw this team all last year as an analyst for TWCSportsnet. Byron Scott is not only the guy for now. He’s the guy for later and the guy to bring Lakers back to where they belong. So I’m saying he’ll pick up where Phil left off.

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Rookie of the year?

4. Julius: Is he the future? Yes! Julius Randle is going to ease into valuable minutes with this team, creating a tenacious scorer and rebounder. I expect him to make a strong case for rookie of the year. According to Byron, you might see him play alongside Boozer for a formidable frontcourt. Boozer, Hill, Randle? Uhoh!

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Chicago's loss is L.A.'s gain

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LinSanity returns to Cali

5. Boozer/Lin: Will they shine in L.A.? Yes! I find it downright disrespectful that the media didn’t see what valuable pickups Mitch made, simply because they weren’t LeBron or Carmelo (By the way guys it’s getting old. Leggo). Boozer’s numbers dipped because he saw a heavy decrease in minutes in favor of Taj Gibson. The same happened with Lin in favor of Patrick Beverly. These guys are bonafide stars when given the responsibility. Look for both to play with a chip on their shoulder. Boozer is still a super solid low post threat with a sound mid range game, plus a beast on the glass. I remember what he’s done to my Lakers in the past. Lin is a true point guard who gets to basket with ease, has a solid jumper and can create great looks for oh… I don’t know…Kobe? These were no chop liver pickups and the league will learn soon.

6. Defense: Will they play better defense? Yes! First and foremost there’s nowhere else to go but up from D’antoni. (Don’t say a word about Cleveland because their roster was not good post-LeBron when Byron took over.) Byron’s first order of business will be defensive sets! That is music to my ears. This team will have to buy into his philosophy and they will, to stay on the floor. They have pitbulls on the glass in Boozer, Randle, Hill and even Wesley Johnson so they’ll finish the job of stopping the opponent and securing the rebound. I expect solid defense and rebounding to be their identity.

This list doesn’t include the fact that Nick Young will continue to be a great scoring threat with Xavier Henry. This doesn’t include the expectation that Ryan Kelly will crush the softmore slump. This doesn’t include my expectation for Jordan Hill to have a monster year as starting center.

Any team playing the Lakers will learn that this team is pesky on defense. They will be attacking the basket and killing the post. They will be in the top 5 in rebounds. They will play smash-mouth 80s style basketball with a 2014 flair (you like that, huh?).

With these questions answered, they will make the playoffs and from there, it’s 16 games to glory and who knows?

So don’t listen to Charles Barkley, please! Listen to The Lakers Optimist.

Go Lakers!

The Lakers Optimist? A Positive View on the 2014-2015 Lakers Season…For Once

July 20, 2014

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2013-2014 Lakers Roster

I guess I could safely be considered the Lakers optimist. I’ve been called delusional, I’ve been laughed at for my overly positive views on my team. I’ll accept it. My outlook is always based on facts. I’m a fan who saw the Lakers beat the Celtics on that famous sky hook by Magic. I rooted for my team when Magic retired and Sedale ran the point. I’ve seen Smush and company struggle and I’m still here screaming for purple and gold.

And I for one am not going to sit here and doom my team before 2014-2015 even has its first tip off!

Let’s take a brief painful glimpse of what went down last year…or rather WHO went down. It was the worst ever.

Like Kobe said, FLUSH IT

But before we flush it, let’s examine what went wrong.

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Injuries. Injuries of this magnitude was unexpected and blindsided everyone. The result was d-League players starting and no sense of chemistry because lineups changed every night. No team in the league could have survived this type of bad luck. Foolishly, I’ve heard people say they would not have done any better healthy… That is illogical. Seriously, because we’re didn’t have the luxury of seeing that.

Poor Coaching. Sorry D’antoni! I really was rooting for you, but here’s the issue. Even with all the injuries, the constant was Pau, Hill and Kaman. We saw a successful peek in pre-season of the Gasol-Kaman effect and refused to use it! They were healthy 80% of the season. He stubbornly refused to play to his strengths and could not find a way to utilize two all-star big men within his run and gun offense. This outweighs the glaring fact that his team could NOT play defense, but also made that an even bigger issue. But it’s hard to play defense when you’re playing 40 plus minutes of run and gun shorthanded. Slowing things down would have played in your favor, got your bigs involved and saved energy. His failure to adjust and ridiculously inconsistent rotations, even with injuries was another factor.

No Kobe. Yeah! Just like Miami without LeBron, Thunder without Durant, etc. Do you really think that didn’t play a part in such a dismal season???

So here we are with a brand new season. Adjustments have been made.

D’antoni is gone. Upgrade.

Whoever coaches now will hopefully institute a traditional offense and be more flexible to adjust to their talent.

They tried to strike oil with bringing in a superstar and it didn’t happen, but nice try.

Are we dead? The team that won it all last year didn’t have LeBron or Carmelo. Besides, we have Kobe.

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High expectations for Julius Randle

Lakers brought back the gems from last year like Hill, Xavier, Swaggy P, Ryan Kelly and Wesley Johnson. They picked up Julius Randle in the draft as a possible future star big man. They addressed the PG issue with newbie Jordan Clarkson.

They nabbed solid players in Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer. They added a young 6’10 250lb big in Ed Davis.

But we don’t have a superstar so we came up empty right?

That is stupid.

The Lakers even without a coach, but not for long, have established an identity. They’ve created a powerful, tough, paint dwelling front line. They’ve addressed the rebounding issue that killed them all last year. They’ve picked up guys like Lin, Henry, Boozer and Clarkson that love to attack the rim. Opponents will be working hard against this team every night, if healthy.

This is not going to be the pushover jumpshooting team from last year. Even Wesley Johnson I expect to be used the right way. Post him up. Make him attack and make him play defense.

There’s not going to be any tall dudes jacking up threes.

We have an if party going on though. These things can take place if:

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Byron Scott is front-runner for head coach

Byron Scott, or any coach with skills to rotate and utilize guys correctly, becomes coach.

Kobe is some remnant of Kobe, but realizes he is not the same Kobe. Kobe has to be there and teach, mentor and lead.

We stay HEALTHY. Healthy teams develope lineup consistency, which develops rotation consistency, which leads to chemistry. HUGE.

I’ve grown tired of hearing the beat writers naysay, the haters laugh and the spoiled fans cry and complain.

Look at the facts.

The game hasn’t started yet.

The Lakers are much better than last year already.

Kobe will be back.

You can bet they hear the haters talking.

Remember, a team on paper is different than a team on the court. The year they went to the finals nobody expected much from Kobe, Bynum, Odom and company. Of course Bynum went down and we eventually got Gasol. But nobody expected them to jump out to 26 wins so fast.

Stars are important, but there is a league full of talented and hungry players who deserve to be acknowledged.

Welcome to L.A., Lin and Boozer. You are now a part of the most loved and hated franchise in sports.

Time to prove em wrong.

I have a guarded optimism for my team.

But don’t mind me. I’m just a Lakers optimist.

Let’s get it!!

Lakers WILL Do Better Than Last Year: Sick of the Laker-haters Talking

August 23, 2013

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I am not a delusional fan. Rather I think everyone else is quite delusional. I think the media and the NBA world is full of Laker-haters. These Laker-haters complain when the Lakers are on top and are beside themselves in happiness when we are at the bottom…rarely. So in the off-season following a disappointing season everybody has a bunch of nonsensical predictions for this Laker season based on a laughable LACK OF FACTS.

First of all, last season was a flop for reasons that hold no proof that this year would be a flop! Injuries to several stars throughout the season kept Lakers from chemistry and the expected success. They finished the season with a 28-12 run and played the Spurs without Bryant, Nash (really shouldn’t have played at all), Meeks, Peace nor Blake in uniform. Based on that, Lakers suck this year? That makes sense.

Howard is not coming back so Lakers will suck based on what comparison? Well if you’re going to say they need Howard to be successful you have to show me a season where they were successful with Howard! All you have is last year. Howard was playing injured, not really working with D’antoni nor buying into his offensive system and failing to take over the reins in the playoffs when it all fell on Him. So he’s gone and therefore we are worse? Yeah, that makes no sense.

The rest of the West is too tough. Nope. Your top teams in the West consist of OKC who basically peaked when they reached the finals against Heat. The status of Westbrook is unknown. This team will be good, but not great. They still lack inside presence which the Lakers still have the advantage and more, picking up young quick players that can keep up even better than previous seasons. Then you have the Spurs who’s core is getting older, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. They did NOTHING to improve in the off-season. I don’t see them as invincible. Denver and Memphis lost their coach and have improved on anything in the off-season. Golden State is an experiment. Last year they were in the bottom half so now you’re just guessing Western Conference supremacy. I’ll give you the Clippers based on talent, but Lakers have potential to be as high as the 5th spot and WILL make the playoffs.

Everybody keeps talking about what the Lakers DON’T have. I give you the fact that we don’t know what kind of Kobe we are going to get. But let me tell you what the Lakers do have. D’antoni still one of the best offensive minds in the league, redefining the game with his run and gun offense. He created stars in Phoenix that really were not stars anywhere else since. So what happened in NY? Carmelo happened in NY. If you’re players don’t buy into what you’re selling, as a coach you’re wasting your breath. Last year, Howard would not run pick and roll with Nash. He just wanted the ball dumped in the post which resulted in forced entry passes that caused turnovers and predictable offense that caused even more turnovers. D’antoni has young quick players that respect his offense and players like Gasol, Nash and Bryant that are willing to buy into his system. If you’re concerned about D’antoni and defense, he is too! He has publicly stated this and has also enlisted Kurt Rambis as one of his assistant coaches. Pay attention folks!!!

Everybody is concerned about big names. Lakers already have big names, first of all. Secondly, every wise addition to the Lakers addressed every position that was previously lacking and also addressed the lack of athleticism and youth. They got younger and faster overnight! These players will be cogs in D’antoni’s system. D’antoni’s system does not need STARS. So that argument falls flat.

I’m not saying the Lakers are a championship contender. But I am saying that you can’t say that they are NOT by looking that the facts that the Laker-hater media (don’t listen to Charles Barkley!!) and delusional, YES delusional Laker-hater fans are using. This team will compete, will make the playoffs and then it’s anybody’s guess. Matchups, skill and luck come into play and things happen. So no I’m not putting this season away and hoping for Lebron or Melo to come to LA next year. I’m expecting a great season filled with Lakers that WANT TO BE THERE, have revenge on their mind, led by one of the greatest players that ever did it and are buying into what D’antoni is selling. This is the Lakers and the standard is high. By the way, making them the underdogs is only more motivation. Last year they were champions on paper, so we know that argument means nothing right?

Parade or No Parade?

April 1, 2010

After the Lakers basically TOOK the championship from Orlando last year the first thing I said was, “…and they are going to take it again next year”. My reason being I looked at the arsenal that the Lakers had: “Twin towers” on the inside by the names of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. A veteran point guard that controls the offense in Derek Fisher. An effective, quick and timely offensive threat in Trevor Ariza. The most versatile forward in the game Lamar Odom and the best there is– Kobe Bryant. The bench delivering with the likes of Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and a healthy Luke Walton. They were easily the strongest offense in the game. With Bynum, thier interior defense was stepped up on the whole and really, who in the NBA could really challenge this jaggernaut of a team next year??

FAST FORWARD…

The team managed to stay in tact after several worrisome back and forth’s with Lamar Odom. Lakers decided to let Trevor Ariza go to Houston and in exchange they got Ron Artest. So, after mulling it over with a fellow Laker fan, it turned out that this was an upgrade. An upgrade to a better defense to add to an already intimidating offense. The Lakers in essence had a star-studded team, an unbeatable team, and a team that undoubtedly could return and win the NBA Finals this year.

NOW TO PLAY THE SEASON…

The Lakers started the season setting out to prove on the court what everybody was saying in the media and at your local sports bar. From the onset they looked to run away with it winning plus 20 games before losing 5. Everything clicked. Even with Ron-Ron still finding his way offensively, he still helped in other areas. No, we didn’t consider him an x-factor, but Shannon Brown easily filled the role that Trevor Ariza left. Defensively they looked much better. Everything looked like we expected it. So what happened?

The Lakers since then sputtered thier way to what is now a worse record than last year, not really able to put any consistent winning streaks together. Having 2 and 3 game losing streaks in between. Losing to A-List teams and struggling to beat D-List teams on the strength of last second Kobe heroics. Their defense is inconsistent, allowing open threes and having poor defensive rotation. With thier offensive numbers down, they are not able to rely soley on the third quarter runs that defined last years lopsided victories. And when the Lakers lose– THEY LOSE!!

Are we complaining? Well, yes and no. This Laker team as opposed to last years Laker team looks vulnerable. After being embarrassed by Denver and Cleveland early in the season, most Laker fans expected them to return with a vengeance that translates to an emphatic victory. Instead, both the Cavs and the Nuggets soundly put the Lakers away— again! What? Not like last year. Where the Lakers could fall behind by any number and come back and win, they tease us with a nice little run at the end then fall short. Not like last year. Last year, let’s be honest, teams were visibly intimidated by the Laker dominance. This year they really don’t look all that invincible. Is it a different team? The record could indicate that. The drop in offensive points per game could indicate that.

After all that they are firmly entrenched in the top of the West and second best record in the league. So why are we complaining? Because we are wondering if this team is able to go through the much improved Western Conference filled with teams that are NOT worried about the Lakers. If they get through it have a very determnined and angry Cleveland Caveliers or Orlando Magic team (if Atlanta or Boston doesn’t surprise us) waiting in the East.

Let’s speculate!

The Lakers have been banged up all season. We haven’t really seen the Lakers at full strength. However they’ve managed to do what is necessary to obtain the top spot in the West. In certain games, they miss several key components to thier bench due to injuries or playing with injuries: Luke Walton, Sasha Vuljacic, Jordan Farmar. They lost offensive punch for a  time when Pau Gasol was injured, they missed Kobe for a few games (still winning but could have used Kobe against Boston). Ron Artest missed a few games. And now they miss interior offense and defense with the injured (again??) Andrew Bynum. Kobe has been playing hurt all season. Chemistry issues? Maybe. Losing any of the starters brings Lamar to the starting position and decreases the effectiveness of the bench. We look to have both Luke Walton and Andrew back in time for the playoffs. Let’s see…

The Lakers are in a different mindset. The year that Boston dismantled the Lakers, Boston was in a “must win” situation and knew that it was now or never. The Lakers were just happy to be in the playoffs. Last year, the Lakers became the now or never team with a chip on thier shoulder and showed it in thier play. Even though they still had too much swagger at times, they still did what they had to do at the right time. This year, they’ve won it and for the younger guys, hunger is in question. Pau wants it bad, Kobe always wants it, Artest never had it, Odom wants it again…but what about everybody else who’s already had it. Obviously the hunger may not be as strong as last year. And the rest of the NBA sees Los Angeles as a big yellow target.

Too good. Too cocky. It’s an 82 game season. We would like to see a team give 100 percent every game, but that doesn’t happen. The Lakers do not have to give thier all in all to win games with the talent they have and unfortunately for the fans, they know it. We see it. Everybody talks about it. If you ask most of the Laker players they will probably say that they try every game. But once they got securely ahead in the West they became very inconsistent…sometimey… And maybe, just maybe they get bored. Bored? Yes bored. We can see it in body language and how they lazily finish out quarters after jumping out to a big lead. Okay this game’s over. Some games were just boring victories. The other team is fighting hard, but the Lakers are just cruising to another win. We’re speculating here. Even towards the end of the season, with the top spot in the West won and the best record out of reach, there is nothing to do but wait for the playoffs. That’s when the REAL playing begins. REALLY. Really?

They just aren’t as good as they were last year. We hate for this to be the reality but it very well could be. And either it’s that the other teams got better or they got worse. We can all agree that they’ve lost offensive punch when Ariza left and maybe that has had the Lakers struggling to find thier rhythm offensively at times. Cleveland added Shaq and we have seen in  games that they give the Lakers a hard time in establishing interior presence and causes turnovers and forces the Lakers into jumpshots. Denver is an offensive and defensive angry beast with Chauncey Billups at the helm. Orlando is peaking. Dallas has made some key trades to become a legitimate contender. Maybe other teams just got much better. Thus somewhat leveling the playing field. This means it won’t be a cakewalk. The Lakers will have to give everything they’ve got to get this second ring.

What do you think? Well I suppose it doesn’t matter what WE think. The playoffs begin in April and the Lakers begin thier title run with questions either for the team, the fans or both. Are the Lakers really worried and frustrated? Or are they just annoyed that they can’t “turn it on” and “turn it off”? Do they really miss Bynum that much as shown in those recent road embarassments? Is this just a, “get the season over with” attitude? These last games, at least statistically, don’t matter. Or maybe they do in terms of finishing strong.

It really doesn’t matter who the Lakers play en route to the finals because they all have potential to upset the Lakers, especially Denver whom the Lakers struggled to put away at home in thier last meeting. But one thing’s for sure, if the Lakers are going to be successful, these things must happen:

Defense. This is why we have Ron-Ron right? The Lakers will have to play better team defense. The easy layups and open threes will have to stop as many of the teams in the West are three point threats. Hopefully Bynum will be back to stop the free-for-all attack at the rim. We expect Ron to be on his game but perimeter “D” breaks down sometimes and then what???

Run Your Offense. This season we’ve seen the Lakers go away from the triangle and settle for threes and jumpshots. This almost NEVER works. You start inside. Get Bynum going, then get Pau going, Once these guys are going, double-teams are demanded and now the rest of the players, especially Kobe can have a field day. You don’t need threes! Take your time! You are not a early in the shot clock offense. You are a slow, get a smart  shot, offense. Use it to your advantage and run when necessary. Slow offense allows you to set up your defense since most of the teams in the West also like to run.

Turnover Issue. The Lakers will simply have to take care of the ball! This has been thier downfall in much of thier losses this season. Nothing more to say about that. This is linked to running your offense.

O Bench, Where Art Thou? Hopefully with Bynum and Walton back, we get our bench back. They are so key! Teams have consistently outscored our bench the latter part of the season. I look for improvement when these guys come back since our bench will now consist of Odom and Walton– controlled and deadly!

It comes down to Kobe. But I  don’t mean scoring. I mean sharing. That game in Atlanta saw Kobe just shooting and not doing much sharing. The Lakers are at thier best when all of the players are involved. Hopefully this was just because of Bynum’s absence combined with frustration. But they have to share the ball. That said, Odom, Artest and Pau will have to be extremely effective offensively so that Kobe doesn’t feel he has to take over.

Follow my lead. You have the best coach in the business and the hunger of Kobe, Artest, Odom and Pau. If the Lakers have that same “win or go home” attitude all across the board, they can be virtually unstoppable. Seriously.

So the final question. Parade or no parade?

Depends on which Laker team shows up. Ultimately. at least we hope, the team that will eliminate the Lakers from the title run will be the Lakers.