While the off-season may now be just a drag, and seeing our Lakers celebrate as the final seconds of an amazing NBA season expired is but a distant memory, there’s still plenty to think about. To debate. Between friends, fans, and those outside of the purple and gold love.
Five questions stand out, however, and what kind of fan would I be if I didn’t have my own opinions on ‘em!? Well, there’s nothin’ to it but to do it!
5. What will happen with our point guard situation? The trio of Fisher/Farmar/Brown looks fine and dandy, but what’s to be expected?
The only definite thing going forward will be that Fisher will see less minutes through the season while Farmar and Brown continue to grow in the triangle offense.
Fisher has come through time and time again in clutch situations, and is loved by the fans and the organization (and the team), but there’s no need to give him an excess of minutes when there are two younger guys who both should be putting it all out there to prove they can each lead this team at the point. Save Fishers legs for another deep playoff run, and acclimate the younger guards to being a more integral part of the team.
Farmar has been in the system for a few years now so expect him to see the brunt of the back-up minutes starting up the 09-10 season. However, Shannon Brown looked good out there last season even though he was a mid-season acquisition. If Shannon continues to show his talent on the court and continues to grow with the triangle offense, he could definitely see those minutes that were once Farmar’s. Farmar is on a contract year, and as the past has shown, guys who have that last year to prove themselves typically play with a bit more to prove, but Brown should have just as much motivation to get out there and give it his all. Regardless of what happens, all three should provide solid minutes and the tandem of Brown/Farmar should definitely be more potent this season.
4. How much gas does Kobe have left in the tank? He was collapsing all over Denver, what’s the deal?
Considering Kobe -finally- had a summer off from competition (though the gold medal was an amazing accomplishment and it didn’t stop him from leading the Lakers to the franchise’s 15th title), Kobe should be very fresh right off the bat. His workout regiment is keeping him in tip-top shape, his dedication and competitive nature wouldn’t allow otherwise, so there isn’t much to worry about on that end.
His Denver performances were memorable to say the least, and the laying out on the floor towards the end of the fourth quarter was a bit telling to just how much he was pushing in the series, but we didn’t see any of that with the Orlando series. Just pure excellence we’ve come to expect (and he continues to raise the bar of). The altitude likely played a major part of the exhaustion of balling in Denver, especially in the 2-3-2 format where they were in Denver for that middle stretch, so that also is something to take into consideration.
Overall, though, the biggest piece of this is that Kobe took a summer off of competitive basketball, and while those tires have some miles, he should be fresh off of a few months rest and ready to drive for five. One more cookie!
3. Can Andrew Bynum stay healthy, and if he does, will the loyalty the organization has displayed for the big man pay off this season?
Didn’t it seem like we went through this last season? Bynum’s health and growth a big question for the organization.
The circumstance of his injury last season was freakish to say the least. He showed spots of brilliance leading up to the injury averaging 26 points and 14 rebounds over a five game span leading up to it, and seemed to be doing and saying all the right things to get back to the court and to be effective. He posted career high stats despite the injury in points per game through the season.
However, the playoffs were NOT kind to Andrew and he definitely struggled as he continued to re-adjust to being back on the floor. 17 minutes per game, 6.3 points, and 3.7 rebounds. That’s not to mention the foul trouble he found himself in. Not numbers you expect out of a big man intended to be a franchise center. This is what it boils down to at the end of the day.
Bynum has shown that he can be the guy the organization has always believed he will be. If he can remain healthy (and you better believe the trainers will do everything they can to keep him on the court for a full season) he should be posting up career numbers again.
The other side of it is, with Lamar off the bench and the addition of Artest, the pressure has lessened a bit on the young man. If he goes down, if he severely struggles, plan B will always be there. Let’s just hope plan A comes through as expected and Andrew shows the nay-sayers (and believers, really) that he’s ready to take the next step.
2. With the Cavs/Spurs/Magic/Celtics adding talent, is there a team that’s leap-frogged the 2009 NBA Champion Lakers?
No. Simple as that. Shaq in Cleveland provides the Cavaliers an anchor, no doubt, but where did they struggle last season? The pick and roll game the Magic utilized so effectively. Shaq is no perimeter defender, and his quickness has only declined over the years. Shaq will help the Cav’s under the rim, but beyond that, he provides nothing more. Just a bit more of a clogged lane for Lebron to drive through.
The Spurs added Richard Jefferson, who will definitely inject some offense into the team, but Duncan and Ginobli seem to have been fighting injuries for the last few years. Healthy, the Spurs definitely are a threat, but even then the Lakers have every bit of talent to still stand tall above them. Also, the loss of Bowen, O’Berto, and Kurt Thomas may seem minor, but depth is something the Spurs definitely need to keep a hold of. Like I said, Manu and Duncan seem to have begun deteriorating, and without a deeper team to support them seeing fewer minutes (or covering for off nights and injuries), this team may look a bit sluggish through the season.
The Orlando Magic lost a young and seemingly rising quality talent in Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, and Tony Battie. The gain? Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson. Vince Carter is a talented, talented player – so currently, he looks to be an upgrade. He’s been a perennial all-star and has put up phenomenal numbers throughout his career. He has all the motivation in the world to play his heart out, wanting his first ring and lending a hand to the defending Eastern Conference champions. Ryan Anderson is a young guy who had a great college career at Cal, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. For the time being he provides some depth from the loss of Tony Battie, but he may show to be the 21 ppg player he was in college (he led the Pac-10 in scoring in his 2007-2008 campaign with the University of California). The Lakers were head and shoulders above the Magic in the Finals, however, and even with Carter the story should ring true yet again this season. Jameer Nelson will be back, and healthy (not barely playing his first NBA games in months) though, and if Dwight Howard works on some go-to post moves, this team will definitely be stronger than last season.
Last, but not least, the Celtics. Kevin Garnett’s knee is still far from 100%, and even recently it has been said that he has yet to play a game of full court basketball (source), so it remains to be seen what can be expected from the big ticket. The additions of Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels will definitely provide some very solid play off the bench, but it’s yet to be seen how motivated Rasheed Wallace’s play will be. Especially off the bench. Rajon Rondo looked like a top tier point guard through the playoffs, and if that type of play continues through the season he will definitely be a thorn in the side of the Fisher/Farmar/Brown council. Still, the Celtics defense has taken steps back from the 2007-2008 “aggressive” (being nice) zone that the Lakers faced in the NBA Finals.
What it all boils down to is…
1. Coming off of a Championship season, how much more do we as fans have to look forward to?! Bringing Lamar and Shannon Brown back, while adding Artest, should we be confident in bringing the boat back home next year? Will the Artest addition help or hurt us?
Well thank you, I thought you’d never ask!
To start, Ariza will be missed. He was a great, great player who put it all out there for the team. He came through in some clutch moments and provided memories for years to come.
Now that that’s out of the way, things have never looked better for the Lakers. Bynum will be in full health and prepared this season, which will be a large factor, and even more-so in the future. Kobe has been spending the off-season off of the hardwood and doing a bit of traveling, he will be ready to burst out of the gates for the 2009-2010 season. All three point guards should all be poised to provide quality minutes year round, and if one is having an off night the others will be there to pick up the slack. Pau Gasol, while he did have a minor finger injury overseas with the Spain team, will be ready to continue making the league wonder if he’s the best power forward right now. The return of Lamar Odom is huge not only on the court, but for some added chemistry between the guys (it would have been hard to lose both Ariza and Odom in that sense). Odom’s play off the bench will continue being a staple to success for our purple and gold squad, and he’s one heck of an insurance policy if anything happens to Gasol, Bynum, or Artest (knock on wood folks).
Last, but definitely not least, the injection of Artest into the team. Personally I can’t explain how excited I was once it was confirmed that Artest was signing with the Lake Show. Some question the chemistry aspect of bringing in a guy like Ron Artest, but it’s just an empty opinion. The Palace is far behind Artest, and the guy took less money to play for a championship caliber team along side Kobe Bryant. Both him and Kobe are two of the fiercest competitors out on the floor, and they both should push each other to play on very high levels. He has long time friend Lamar Odom to mediate if something brews up (highly doubt it) in any case. Ron Ron wants to be a winner, and we ALL know he came to the right place for that. Artest will provide a tenacious, physical style of defense that should help rub off on the rest of the team. Pair that with Kobe’s leadership and how he has made everyone around him play at a higher level, and the Lake Show should be a scary, scary team.
Oh, did I mention Mr. 10 NBA Titles is coming back to continue coaching the greatest basketball team on the planet? Phil will keep this team rolling like a finely oiled machine, and if need be he will know exactly how to keep Artest focused. Phil knows how to intertwine his team and build chemistry, not to mention he’s not too bad at coaching teams to championships.
This should be an exciting season for The Lakers Nation, to say the least.