The Los Angeles Lakers are a perfect team for the star studded city of City of Angels. Kobe Bryant has been the mainstay for well over a decade and he has seen plenty of players come and go. The 5x NBA Champion exclaimed earlier this month that this current Lakers team was the most talented squad he had ever been a part of. With the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard joining Kobe and Pau Gasol, I’m tempted to agree with him.
Kobe Bryant is the face of the Lakers, it doesn’t matter how many All-Stars they add to the roster. The drama between the Lakers and Kobe has been well documented, but he has stuck it out through it all and whether you like him or not – he’s starting to establish himself as one of the greatest Lakers of all-time. He needs another Championship or two for that to really have merit and he knows it. Kobe is one of the most driven players in the game and you better believe he’s gunning for another ring. I think very highly of Mr. Bryant, he’s the superstar that I have grown up watching. If anybody believes he may be too old now to make one last run for the pinnacle of the basketball world, prepare to be eating your words by the end of next summer.
The biggest story of the offseason (and pretty much the entire season a year ago) was the drama surrounding Dwight Howard. He made no secret that he wanted out of Orlando and it was a brutal roller coaster the entire NBA world had to sit through. He seemed hell bent on going to Brooklyn, but that didn't work out. The Lakers then began to surface in the trade talks and everything came to fruition. The 6x All-Star finally got his wish by being shipped out of Orlando and it’s that proverbial “put up or shut up” moment for him. Despite what you think about him personally, it’s pretty apparent that he’s got undeniable talent. He’s the best big man in the NBA and he’s now playing with one of the greatest guards of all-time and one of the greatest point guards as well.
Steve Nash is going to be the difference maker on this team. The top knock you’re going to hear leveled against this Lakers team will be their lack of chemistry. How can a team with so many egos coexist? It’s a pretty fair complaint. The Miami Heat’s Big Three struggled in their first season occasionally because they were trying to figure things out. Of course, the age difference for the core of the Lakers is much older, so I’m not sure they have that one year grace period that Miami had. They need to win now. If that’s going to happen, Steve Nash is going to be a pivotal part of it. He’s actually the main reason why I am such a believer in the Lakers this season. He’s been, quite possibly, the best PG in the NBA of the past decade. The chemistry may not be an issue whatsoever with him running things on the floor.
There aren’t a lot of players returning to L.A. this season. Most people will spotlight the additions of Howard and Nash for the Lakers, with obvious good reason, but it’s about who they kept that really propels this team. Many assumed that Pau Gasol would have to be on his way out if any sort of impactful trade occurred. Many were wrong. Gasol is back as co-captain of the team along with Bryant and the pressure on him has completely disappeared. He hasn’t played at the level he has established for himself the past two seasons and I think it has been him pressing. He was the sidekick to Kobe on the Lakers and not everyone can handle that. Now, he’s the fourth most interesting player on the team (maybe fifth if you care to watch the antics of Metta World Peace). If he has a bad game, his locker is not going to be surrounded by reporters. There are too many personalities and too much talent on this team. Pau can drift in the background and will be allowed to go out on the floor every night as a supporting player and relax. That’s going to do wonders for his confidence and his game overall.
Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks are the two other significant additions that will try to make an impact for this potential Championship team. Meeks comes in from Philadelphia where he started most of the games. He's going to be that typical guy off the bench Mike Brown can send in to try and hit some big three's. Pretty much the role that Steve Blake failed to fill. Jamison seemingly died in Cleveland. Once LeBron left, he looked like a dead man walking on the floor. His enthusiasm was gone and was often seen pouting. He'll have a resurgence in Los Angeles and just adds depth to a team overloaded with talent at the top. He's not going to win any Sixth Man of the Year awards, but he's going to provide more positive impact than he does negative. He basically fills the void Lamar Odom left on the team when he left a year ago.
It may be a bit presumptuous of me to anoint the Lakers as the favorites in the West without them playing a game yet together, but I’m sipping the Kool-Aid. I’m a big Kobe Bryant fan and Steve Nash is one of the best playmakers I’ve ever seen. Dwight Howard can dominate a game on his own, now he has two former MVP’s playing alongside him. Things are going to click right out of the gate and I think it’s really going to take the NBA by storm.
Season Outlook: The Lakers manage to knock the Thunder off their perch as the best team in the West as Kobe, Nash and Dwight establish themselves as the biggest threat to the Miami Heat for the NBA Championship. Metta World Peace doesn’t attack a single fan.
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