Last Sunday, shortly before Kobe committed aggravated burglary in Boston (the highlight of my NBA season thus far), I remembered all over again how much I hate the Boston Celtics. Just the sight of Paul Pierce getting tangled up with Ron Artest right before tip-off evoked irrational thoughts of rage that should certainly have me at CVS picking up my Paxil prescription.
On Monday morning, I spent a solid hour reading every single pro-Boston panic column I could find. I just couldn’t get enough, “Trade Ray Allen”, “We blew the game”, “Kobe hit a great shot” references. It was like basketball porn – and those five words alone are creepy enough that I will not edit them out of this column. Like I said, I should be medicated.
All of my Celtic-hate fashioned a rather interesting question that I’m going to throw out there to all of you TLN’ers to hear what you guys think. Let’s say you meet someone, and after a few weeks, you realize that you’re really digging them. Around date number four or so, sports comes up and they lay the following on you:
“I like the Celtics; I was actually there when they won the championship back in ’08. It was one of the five greatest moments of my life.”
So, Lakers Nation, if you’re on that date, what happens next? (No, that didn’t happen to me). Do you throw up a little bit in your mouth, or does it spill out all over the table? Do you casually head for the front door, or do you Usain Bolt for the nearest exit? Do you sit in complete silence, or spew out a string of obscenities? While you ponder that horrifying scenario, here are 8 things we have learned about the Lakers in 2010:
The Lakers are unbeatable.
You are just as guilty of this as I am. Right before the season tipped off in October, we looked at our lineup, condescendingly smirked and put in a request at work to take off the second week of June to celebrate. If you didn’t do this, you at-least thought about it. After all, our 22-3 start unquestionably justified it. Following our recent 16-9 stretch and a growing list of menacing injuries, the smart money remains in the Lakers corner, but it’s not so much of a lock anymore.
Kobe Bryant is not healthy.
First, it was his finger. Next, it was a different, more important, finger. Then, it was his back. And most recently, it’s been his ankle. Kobe is the NBA’s version of William Wallace – not only the most skilled (don’t try to tell me Lebron is more skilled than Kobe), but also the most tenacious. Nine times out of ten, this works in our favor. Right now may be the one exception. Should Kobe hang it up for a few weeks and get healthy? It’s certainly up for debate. We know Bryant won’t take any time off – what we don’t know is how much that may hurt us come May and June.
Cleveland is for real.
Once again, Lebron James is building quite an impressive MVP resume. They have found their groove here lately, even without their second best player, Mo Williams. Boston looks old, beat up and as far from their ’08 Finals form as we have ever seen them. Vince Carter isn’t working out so far in Orlando, Dwight Howard has regressed some this year, and Shaq will present him some serious problems if they were to play in the ECF again. It’s looking more and more like Nike is going to get their dream match-up. Let’s just hope the regular season isn’t a sign of things to come.
Drew’s contribution has evolved from ‘luxury’ to ‘necessity’.
Very quietly, Big Drew is becoming a sizable part of the Lakers’ success. He has failed to score in double figures only 8 times this season, and when Drew has it going, I think we can all agree that stopping the Lakers becomes highly unlikely. Speaking of things we can all agree on, for the first time in his career, Bynum’s play could make or break the Lakers’ championship aspirations. Can you imagine beating Denver, Cleveland or Boston in a 7-game series with Bynum being in-effective? Me neither.
Healthy Ariza > Unhealthy Artest.
Let’s be clear about this; Ron Artest isn’t healthy. I remember having this thought during the West Semi’s last season:
“Holy Crap, Ron Artest could kill us all by himself.”
Don’t be fooled by his sporadic play, Ron can still get it done. The real question is whether or not he will get healthy this season with enough time to find his rhythm. If he does, then come playoff time, we won’t miss Trevor. If he doesn’t, well…
Pau Gasoft isn’t completely deceased.
How much do I really need to even elaborate on this one? If we were honest with ourselves, this would come as no surprise. We were able to ignore it when the Lakers won the NBA title and opened this season at 22-3. The simple truth is that Gasol hasn’t changed, we have. Pau doesn’t (and has never) liked physical play. That is who he is (and always has been) as a player. The sooner we accept that as one of his weaknesses, the less surprised we will be when he gets pushed around at times (I.e. Cleveland). We need Andrew to step in as an enforcer and let Gasol do what Gasol has done his entire career with the Lakers – Win.
D-Fish isn’t in a slump; he’s 35 years-old.
For a second consecutive year, the ‘Why the hell is D-Fish playing?’ campaign has gotten underway. Here’s what we know about Derek at this stage in his career:
- He’s definitely lost a step or two and isn’t the defensive guy he once was.
- His shot isn’t quite as automatic as it was just a couple of seasons ago.
- He’s one of the most clutch players in the League and reliably hits timely shots.
The latter makes the first two endurable; and you may not agree with me on this right now, but you will when he buries a game-changing shot, just like he did in Orlando last year, and throughout his entire career.
Championship #2 is considerably more difficult than #1.
And that is why it’ll be that much sweeter…