Los Angeles Lakers: NBA Champions 2009

June 15, 2009

by Jack Maidment

The Lakers last night defeated the Orlando Magic to claim their 15th NBA title.

LA took down Dwight Howard and co in 5 games, celebrating on their opponents home floor. 

That which tasted so bitter for the Magic was oh so very sweet for the Lakers for a number of monumental reasons. 

Firstly, the recipient of the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy Kobe Bryant can finally hush those who have consistently brought up Shaquille O’Neal in his quest for ring number 4. 

Shaq is gone and Kobe has his title with a new cast. He said that it felt like ‘the monkey was off his back’ and finally the media can move on. 

Secondly, Phil Jackson won ring number ten to go ahead of Boston’s Red for the title of most jewellery won. Ten rings. One for ever finger and thumb. 

Thirdly, the Lakers returned to the Finals after losing in ignominy last year to the Boston Celtics. They returned and they won. To consistently be right at the top of the game is something so difficult to sustain and the Lakers got theirs by maintaining their title drive ever since last year’s defeat. 

Where many teams reach the Finals and then dismantle their teams after they are unable to replicate the same form the next season, the Lakers are in a strong position to continue challenging for some years to come. 

Kobe has at least two more years of full throttle left and that could be enough to equal Jordan’s 6 ring record. 

He is surrounded by all the pieces to become the new dynasty. Pau Gasol’s addition could well go down as one of the greatest pick ups in history. 

The Lakers need to make sure Lamar Odom returns as well as Trevor Ariza. If that can be achieved, this will not be the LA Laker’s last title of the near future. 

Congratulations LA.


Los Angeles Lakers: Arrogant, Innocent or just Inconsistent?

May 15, 2009

LA_Lakers_Kobe_Bryant

by Jack Maidment

The Los Angeles Lakers have an attitude problem.

There is no other way to look at it. The ‘Most Talented Team in the League™’ are as likely to blow out teams as capitulate in the first quarter. Beat the Cavs in Cleveland. Lose to the Thunder at the Staples Centre.

The Lakers could well be close to adding another trademark to their franchise: ‘Most Frustrating Team in Sports’. A flawed genius who blows hot and cold. Far from consistent, but always engaging, often for the wrong reasons.

So, is it arrogance or an innocently laid back mind set?

The identity that a franchise adopts is 50% down to its coach and 50% to the team’s leaders.

In Kobe Bryant the Lakers possess the world’s best player and a much improved leader compared to the man he was just a few years ago.

Playing every game knowing that you are the best on the floor can only lead to a certain amount of arrogance no matter how pronounced it may be.

Similarly, playing for a coach as monumentally successful as Phil Jackson must instil not only a respect and faith in his schemes, but also a certain degree of complacency built around the idea that ‘We got Kobe’ and We got Phil’.

The problem with banding around the word arrogance is that the connotations are entirely negative. What if the Laker’s mentality is entirely innocent, an unwavering belief in their abilities that appears as disrespect to the outsider looking in.

When a team or individual exhibits other worldly talent it is easy to become disillusioned and ultimately follow a path toward downright dislike.

So when LA embarrass a team as good as Houston by 50 points in a playoff game it is hardly surprising that some people might feel slightly aggrieved.

But the next game LA will seemingly slack off, almost allowing other teams to get the win. Making it fair. No matter how innocent they may be this is obviously going to annoy opposition and audience a like.

Kobe has said previously that his team find it difficult to close out teams because they ‘find it too easy to score’. Sound arrogant to you?

Maybe, but, put simply, the Lakers will come good. Or they will make a whole lot of writers and critics look very silly indeed.

Denver are not playing. As George Karl keeps saying, they are ‘real’. Any slacking against a team that will score and hustle in equal measure will lead to an embarrassment that LA does not want to become familiar with.

The fact that LA are playing so hit and miss also adds an extra dimension to a Western Conference Finals which would lose some of its mystique if both teams were playing 100%.

Ultimately, everybody loves a little bit of drama, and that much is assured by the Lakers post season presence.

The Los Angeles Lakers, the team that you love to hate.


NBA Playoffs Conference Semi Finals: Lakers Face Houston, Hold The Ace

May 2, 2009

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With the utter insanity of the Chicago Bulls – Boston Celtics match up out East it is easy to forget just how good the first round series have been elsewhere. Even the ones with consistent blowouts offered something wildly entertaining.

 

Man it was ugly, but watching the Denver Nuggets humiliate the New Orleans Hornets was sure fun. Same goes for the Atlanta – Miami series where both teams have shared a powerful commitment to blowing out the other on alternate nights.

Watching Dwayne Wade and Joe Johnson go to work makes the 30 point loss kind of redundant. It’s just good.

So while Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon plot the downfall of Paul Pierce and his Celts, and Miami and Atlanta decide whose turn it is to get blown out in their game 7, the 6 teams who have already secured progress are busily preparing for what promises to be monumental semi final match ups.

Only 4 teams, all out West, know for sure who lies between them and the Conference Finals.

The Los Angeles Lakers are undoubtedly a little more troubled by their second round opponents than they may have been.

Houston’s progress means that LA face a team of hungry veterans with a splash of youthful arrogance thrown in that promises more problems than a Portland team who would have been far more likely to succumb to the flashing lights of Hollywood than Yao and Co.

You can bet all the tea in China that Yao Ming is not just happy with finally getting out of the First Round. Tasting post season success for the first time will have given the man from the Orient the impetus to drive his team even deeper, toward the Finals.

Yao is the major problem for the Lakers. 7 feet 6 is just hard to guard. Andrew Bynum, the Laker big man, was perhaps unwise to call for a match up with Houston so that he can take down Mr Ming.

If Yao discovers a new ‘domination’ level of play that his stature should make possible, the Laker frontcourt will have their work cut out to stop themselves getting steam rolled.

The problems do not stop with Yao. On paper, the Houston Rockets are one of, if not the, best defensive team in the League. With Ron Artest and Shane Battier locking down the LA perimeter players and Luis Scola’s hustle providing the perfect accompaniement to Yao’s length inside, the rockets are tough.

Kobe going at it with Battier promises to be a lot of fun. As does Bynum/Yao and Scola/Gasol. So many key match ups.

As good as the Rockets might be defensively, no other team in the NBA possess the same amount of fire power as the Lake Show. Kobe, Pau, Lamar, ‘Drew, Fisher, Ariza, Shannon Brown, Vujacic, Farmar.

Pick. Your. Poison.

There is no way that the Rockets can outswcore the Lakers, but the fact that giving up leads is sort of what LA does, Houston have a chance. Especially with Aaron Brooks on point.

Of all the men on the floor, Brooks poses the most problems for Phil Jackson. He is a match up nightmare. Too fast. Too dangerous. Too confident?

The speed that he has to burn will cause Derrick Fisher all kinds of trouble. 30 year old ankles are not designed to withstand Texas Tornadoes.

The Lakers may have to sacrifice the steady hand of the Fish Man for the zippier Jordan Farmar. Although his lack of minutes recently hardly prepares him too well for going toe to toe with one of the quickest players in the game.

Defense meets Offense. Grit meets Finesse.

Such a summary would ordinarily point toward a dead lock. A 7 game slog. The Lakers do however have an ace up their collective sleeve.

Kobe.