Inconsistent yet Impressive Altogether: A Look at the Los Angeles Lakers

Posted: June 1, 2010 in Sports Inklings
Tags: , , , ,

This post basically lets the author share his thoughts about the upcoming title defense of the Los Angeles Lakers against the team who beat them mercilessly two years ago, the Boston Celtics. A post about the Boston Celtics will be published hopefully tomorrow. Anyway, let us get the ball rolling shall we?

Key Acquisition: Ron Artest (via free agency)
Key Loss: Trevor Ariza (via free agency)
Overall Record: 57-25 (1st in Western Conference)

1. What has been the main problem for the Lakers this season?

I can honestly say it has been inconsistency. Kobe Bryant may have had to deal with a myriad of injuries but the Lakers this year are pretty inconsistent with their play. The Lakers have not been able to convincingly defeat some opposition in the regular season. They all look uninterested at some point with some questioning the hunger of the team. Aside from Bryant, Andrew Bynum’s knees have been a problem yet again this season.

On a positive note, the team does seem to have turned it up by a notch this postseason. Kobe Bryant, as expected, has been amazing this postseason, hitting one tough fadeaway jumper after another. Though the team has turned it up a notch, one can still feel some uncertainties regarding the squad. What if the Lakers’ offense start sputtering yet again? What if the injuries start to get the best of the squad? There are still some questions remaining for this squad but it all seems they have solved it.

2. Who among the Celtics should cause some big time concern for the Laker defense?

Initially, I had Rajon Rondo because his play has been outstanding but after enough consideration, I do not think he is the Celtic that should cause some concern for Hollywood. Sure, he may be setting up the table for his teammates but if the Lakers defend his teammates effectively, Rondo’s value lessens and the burden of the offense goes to someone who can create his own shot. Who is it then?

Without a doubt, it is Paul Pierce. In their 2008 encounter, the task of defending Pierce fell into the hands of Kobe Bryant and all the defending tired Bryant so much that he did not have enough energy to muster for their offense. Why Paul Pierce? He is big and strong. He collapses interior defenses with will. Some might say that Rajon Rondo should be the primary cause of concern but I honestly think that Paul Pierce wants moments like the NBA Finals. His play elevates big time and that should be enough reason for the Lakers to worry.

3. If there is anything that the Lakers must do offensively this series, what is it?

I cannot stress this enough but I am going to say it yet again: Let Pau Gasol be involved in almost every possession. Kobe is going to have his moments but the ball movement is crisper once Pau holds the ball in the low block. The defense’s attention switches to cutters who benefit with the triangle offense in place. This is also a good time for Pau Gasol to finally prove he is not a soft post player. Gasol’s length outdoes the strength of Perkins in my humble opinion.

A good thing too is do not hoist up some dumb shots (a great example is Artest’s three-pointer with 55 seconds left). The bigs of the Lakers have to improve their efficiency for the Lakers’ chances to be great. The bench also has to show some life. Lamar Odom’s rebounding is going to be key and the effectiveness of the backup guards (Farmar, Brown, and Vujacic) will be huge as well. If they perform well, Phil Jackson’s trust in them is going to grow and he can afford to give Bryant some key rest in the process.

4. Is this the moment where Ron Artest has to prove he is worth it?

Absolutely. The NBA Finals is the reason why the Lakers took a gamble on Artest and let Ariza walk away to the Rockets. His toughness is going to be a huge factor for the Lakers. Defending Paul Pierce (or Ray Allen in stretches) will be his main task and how he does this job is critical to the Lakers’ success. His shot selection will be important as well but playing as the envisioned ‘defensive stopper’ is all that the Lakers are asking from him.

5. How did the Lakers manage to get into the Finals despite all their problems?

Laker fans have to thank the Oklahoma City Thunder for pushing the Lakers hard in the opening round of the Lakers’ playoff run. The Thunder made them realize that things are not going to be easy. As a result, the next Laker wins have been impressive particularly all those close-out games. The Lakers, due to the Thunder, have been given an alarming wake-up call and have responded very well to the challenges that followed.

6. How will Kobe Bryant benefit from another Laker title win (if ever they do)?

His status as a true Laker will be cemented. Overcoming the Celtics is the basketball equivalent of overcoming the famed Curse of the Bambino. A successful title defense distances Bryant away from two-time MVP LeBron James who succeeds well in the regular season yet chokes come postseason time. He will get his second title without Shaq in the process (again, if they do win) and will be acquiring his fifth ring. I bet his mindset is all about getting revenge on the team that beat them to a pulp in a 92-131 loss at The Garden in 2008. I do expect him to make one tough shot after another but let us not get overconfident. This is going to be a key series for Kobe, no doubt.

Overall, basketball fanatics will be seeing a team that runs a very beautiful offense if executed properly. The patented Gasol-Bryant combination is also going to be a key factor but Ron Artest clearly has to step up. The post about the Boston Celtics should hopefully be done by tomorrow.

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