Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Phlip
My fanship of those who wear the Purple and Gold is well-worn, as is my general distaste for – and reveling in the trials of – the New York Knicks.
My last post may have been construed as “hate” from those who employ such terms. The problem with people who employ such terms is that they will use them is that they will generally ignore the truth set before them to discredit the message ahead of them any way they can, even if it means the message presented is ignored. Needless to say, I was called names for talking badly about the Knicks…
I don’t care, either.
Well, today I am here to talk about my Lakers.
It is no secret that we pulled off one coup of this offseason’s free agency dealings in talking Steve Nash into wanting to become the Lakers’ point guard of the present, which made it totally acceptable that Ramon Sessions went to Charlotte for the money. With arguably one of the best backcourts in the league installed to match what was already established as one of the best frontcourts based upon size alone, things were looking up for the Lakers. This would be in spite of the glaring hole at the Small Forward position (no, I am not counting Matt Barnes or Ron Artest terribly as “assets” here anymore, I would REALLY rather save Tayshaun Prince from Detroit).
Then the Lakers added legitimate 2-position player Antawn Jamison who can cover the 3 and 4 positions off of the bench and provide an offensive spark for the second unit. The looming specter of Andrew Bynum being trade bait is not a hindrance, as the only reason he would be leaving is in exchange for Dwight Howard (who I, as a fan, REALLY do not want right now). Otherwise, he is extending with the Lakers.
If nothing, it seems as if they made the moves to position themselves to compete for Kobe Bryant’s 6th NBA (I REFUSE to call it a “world”) Championship. With a starting lineup 1-through-5 that (at current) would be Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, it is an enviable problem to have that your “weak link” being someone who is still considered an elite-level defender who happens to have a screw loose. On paper, it would seem that these Lakers are built to win and win now, perhaps for up to two seasons.
The problem, however, is that games are not played (or, in this case, coached) on paper and instead are held to a collection of variables that usually prove problematic.
By show of hands, who remembers the 2003-2004 Los Angeles Lakers? That season, they started Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant, Devean George, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal. BY my math, that is 4 Hall-Of-Fame players and Devean George at Small Forward. What it also suggests is that Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family have little respect for history sometimes. Back in 2004, the Lakers were a #1 seed masquerading as a #2 (no one EVER takes the Timberwolves seriously) and boasted what would become three (Malone was already there) of the top-10 all-time scorers in NBA history and another in the top-10 in assists and steals. In other words, their deck was stacked before we ever even mention the whole Phil Jackson thing. The rest, as they say, was history as they melted down in the NBA finals when Gary Payton refused the Triangle offense and Detroit adjusted accordingly.
And that is what scares me about this assemblage and all the preliminary coronations…
•Steve Nash can run an offense on the pick-and-roll like nobody’s business.
Pau Gasol’s newfound jumpshot and court vision will match up with Nash to make beautiful music together.
•Andrew Bynum (or Dwight Howard) would be willing beneficiary to the open looks that a double out of the pick-and-rolls for personal profit. Teams had a hard enough time matching up with two 7-footers as it was, try adding two of the best guards of their generation and deal with that.
•Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant, and that is to say that when Steve Nash starts hitting the necessary recipient of the ball and not just Kobe Kobe Kobe and Kobe, the ball might stop coming out of Kobe’s hands.
•Ron Artest is still Ron Artest, he of untradeable contract and propensity to take random trips to outer space in the middle of games.
•Andrew Bynum’s maturity level went down as his health became more reliable.
•Steve Nash is an offensive asset, but a defensive liability… With some of the hotshot Point Guards in the league in the Western Conference, this could prove frustratingly problematic.
None of the top teams to deal with have gotten ANY worse this offseason.
Personally, as much as I WANT to see this group win one (or perhaps two) more before their window is closed for them and as very plausible it may be, I am of the unfortunate opinion that this season will be another of those ones that dies on the “how did they blow THAT” altar. I see a 2nd or 3rd seed in store for these Lakers – assuming good health and clean arrest records – but I do not see Mike Brown as a championship coach.
One thing the Lakers have always done well is rebuild without being “bad” for very long if at all, instead taking advantage of the ability to properly compensate the best players to want to play for them right then (Shaquille, anyone?) and win again without missing the playoffs. Unfortunately, the NBA’s climate does not lend itself to that as much anymore. Looking at all new teams to reenter the fray of competitiveness here, the common thread has been that teams got REALLY bad and then righted their ship via the draft or free agency. This year’s NBA finals offered a look into each side of this.
Again, the FAN in me wants to see the Lakers find a way to properly right the ship without being a bad team, or perhaps that this season is representative of setting things straight. I guess we all just wait and see how it pans out.