Friday, April 25, 2008

The Purple and Gold of Old

So much talk about the Los Angeles Lakers, so little time! The city is buzzing, local radio can’t stop talking about them, and ESPN is giving them their due. Finally! Is this the year for the Lakers? I feel optimistic, but as one of the bloggers at wrote after the first win, and I quote:

“I have a love/hate relationship with the playoffs. I love that it’s the pathway to the Finals, that the best teams in the league are competing and that every game means something. But I hate the tension, the nervousness, and the worry over little problems maybe becoming big ones and leading to a key loss. When all is said and done though, when the Lakers play with the poise, professionalism and control they played with today, the playoffs can be a joy to watch.”

So yeah, I’m very optimistic! They not only beat the team they were supposed to beat in Game 1, but they did so with finesse. Pau Gasol scored 36, Kobe Bryant scored 32, and everything else fell into place. I’m afraid to jinx them with any confident talk and I don’t want to sound pessimistic, so I’ve enlisted the assistance of my comrade Daniel Sagal from again to talk about what’s up with the team in this post-season:

The Lakers have really started to grow and develop as a ball club. It seems like these guys finally genuinely like each other and are happy to be sharing the court. I think every GM in the league understood from the 2004 Detroit Pistons that team ball wins games. Mitch Kupchak has done a superb job in assembling this roster with players that can dominate at every position. Similar to the Pistons of old, they had a solid guy at every position, when one piece was gone (Ben Wallace) the team lost it's mojo.

The Lakers are still missing one of their biggest pieces, Andrew Bynum. They have managed to dominate for quite a while now without him as Pau Gasol has given the team a boost in offensive efficiency to make up for the hole in the middle. The defense is lacking but guys like Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf have really stepped up to fill in the paint.

Also, we can't mention the Lakers success without giving a hand to the bench. This includes Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Radmanovic (starter but really a role player that should be coming off the bench), Luke Walton, Ronny Turiaf, and even DJ Mbenga, Chris Mihm, and Ira Newble. Every guy seems to know their role on this team and when this unity occurs, the game just flows. If you watch the Lakers run their offense, you will notice that they really don't have to do very much in terms of looking for a pass. The triangle offense is designed so that the point guard doesn't have to call plays, instead, the players just simply start moving in some form of configuration around the ball, eventually the defense will not be able to keep up and someone will be left wide open. The Lakers, especially Lamar Odom, did a great job in penetrating and finding the open man all of game 1, which was often Pau Gasol directly under the basket for an easy dunk or lay up.

The rest of the series should go similar to the first example. Game 1 was the evidence; the rest of the series is the jail time.

The win on Wednesday was also impressive. In the second half especially, the team was so synchronized that it was beautiful to watch. Fortunately, they aren’t taking their lead for granted. Post game interviews with Kobe Bryant and the gang all sounded very focused and determined to finish what they have started. In addition, the team is acutely aware of the obstacles they will face playing in the altitude, with fan taunting, and being away from Staples. The hype machine is in full force about a Lakers v. Celtics Finals – here’s hoping they’re right!


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