Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thoughts on the Lakers Before the 2012-2013 NBA Season Starts


I was surprised and saddened when Kobe implied in interviews that he will be only playing for two or three more seasons.  I’ve always thought that he could and would play till he’s 40.   Guess I was wrong.  Actually, the issue is not being able to play till he’s 40.  Rather, playing in a high level till he’s 40.  Kobe can’t imagine himself merely becoming a role player in his last years.  Kobe is a proud lion who would rather retire when he is still on the top of his game (still, there’s a part of me that find it unKobelike of him to retire when he is still able to play on a high level.  I’ve always thought that he is the kind of person that would go on fighting till his legs collapse beneath him).    

But I’m still crossing my fingers; hoping that Kobe, after three years, would find his body still capable of playing on that level he’s satisfied with that would make him comfortably play till he’s 40.  Would love that. 

Nonetheless, this next two or three seasons are likely to be Kobe’s last.  And I’m going to enjoy this proud gunslinger’s ride to the sunset as much as I can.  It had been wonderful following Kobe’s career.  He has been a major factor why I love the Lakers and basketball.  And he is one of those persons that I grew to look up to and be greatly fond of.  Gonna terribly miss watching him play. 

And, of course, the preferable way to go is with a bang!  That he would lead the Lakers to win all the championships in the remaining two or three seasons he is going to play, and receive more All-Star starting spot and All-NBA First Team selections; another regular season MVP; an All-Star MVP (so he can have the sole title of having the most All-Star MVPs); and a couple more Finals MVPs along the way.


There are some silver linings to look forward to when Kobe retires.  There’s the induction to the Hall of Fame (though that might take a long time after his retirement to happen) and I’m excitedly interested how his speech would go.  While waiting for that HOF ballot, we’ll see his jersey numbers – no. 8 and no. 24 – retired first.  Yes, I do believe both numbers should be retired.  That’s another highlight after his retirement.  But what I’m looking forward to the most is the bestselling Kobe Bryant autobiography that I’m quite sure will be written. 

Quite interesting as well what Kobe would do after playing in the NBA.  Kobe said he planned to play in Italy after he plays in the NBA.  But what of after his playing career?  I’m very interested and curious what he would decide as career once he hangs up his basketball shoes for good.  I’ve always said that I like him to be a coach or analyst.  He might have not been able to surpass MJ as the Greatest Player Ever but he might find his niche in coaching immortality and become the Greatest Coach Ever (surpassing the Zen Master himself).  Or he could become the next ninja Lakers GM that Jerry West and Mitch Kupchack have been, drafting the next Kobe or pulling another absurd “Kwame ‘bonafide scrub’ Brown-for-Pau Gasol” trade.  Heck, since he’s in LA anyway, he might as well take the Hollywood route.  I think he will do well as an actor.  Who knows, he might even start loving acting and find that he is good at it.  He might become the next Will Smith.  LOL.   

It’s also interesting to see how the Lakers would look like without Kobe Bryant.  Throughout my life as a Laker fan, Kobe has always been on the Lakers.  Once he retires, it’s going to be the first time I will be a Laker fan with no Kobe on the team.  So it’s going to be a new experience for me to cheer for a Lakers team that has no Kobe Bryant.  And I, as a Laker fan, welcome such experience of novelty brought by the shifting of era. 

The Lakers have Dwight Howard now and will build around him once Kobe retires.  But will Dwight replace Kobe’s place in my heart as a favorite Laker great?  Hmmm.  Not sure.  However, I’m thinking of something crazier…
If LeBron is still playing the same beast level that he is playing now by that time, then I would love to see him play for and find greatness with the Lakers.  If not LeBron, how about…
LeBron or Durnatula in a Laker uniform or something of this effect… awesome!  Okay, okay.  This kind of thing is highly unlikely to happen at this point.  But the Lakers have the knack of making highly unlikely things happening.    


This off-season was a Lakers blockbuster.  It’s old news already that the Lakers obtained Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.  Now, this 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers team looks to have the best starting five I ever saw in my years as a Laker fan (could even be the best Lakers starting five ever... but we can only say this with finality once they win some titles).    

And the bench looks formidable, too.  At least, compared to the bench of the last two seasons, this Laker bench now looks to be an upgrade (but this will only be proven once the season starts), with the acquisition of Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, and the retaining of Jordan Hill. 

Excited much.


The acquisition that I liked most is that of Steve Nash.  I’ve always maintained the opinion that Kobe Bryant should add a Reggie Miller-like game – to move without the ball, lose defenders on screens, and quickly catch and shoot – to his offensive arsenal.  But for that to be possible, there should be a competent point guard to share the backcourt with Kobe.  Throughout his career as a Laker, Kobe wasn’t only concentrating on being a primary scorer, he was also the lead facilitator, too, given the lack of a point guard that can efficiently do it instead of him.   And it’s not easy for Kobe to allow somebody else to dominate the basketball more than him; it should be someone that has enough competence to make Kobe trust and respect him.  Steve Nash is more than competent, and he would surely energize greatly the Laker offense.  Kobe had already expressed his excitement on trusting Nash on what to do with the offense.  If Kobe gets himself open, Nash will surely find him. 

It’s also kind of interesting that there is someone other than Kobe that would shoot that technical free throw, considering the fact that Nash is the better free-throw shooter.    


Before, I was apathetic if Andrew Bynum should be traded for Dwight Howard; I was neither for it nor against it.  But once Steve Nash was acquired, I finally become all for the acquisition of Howard.  Howard is a better fit for the Lakers once Nash became part of the equation.  Probably Nash’s greatest strength is running the pick and roll.  And Nash’s big man partner in the pick and roll – whether it’s Amare Stoudemire or Marcin Gortat – has always benefited significantly from him.  Now, Pau Gasol is the kind of player that would have no problem running the pick and roll with Nash.  Bynum, however, is another matter.  His main strength is using his size and power to post himself up, thus, he needs the ball early on to work.  Howard, on the other hand, is the athletic, quick, and strong kind that would explode on the basket; perfect as Nash’s pick and roll partner.  Aside from this, it can’t be denied that Nash’s weakness is his defense.  While Howard is known to be the game’s best inside defender, thus, he will offset the defensive weakness that Nash brings.
Moreover, Howard is a better passer and is proficient in kicking out the ball to an outside shooter when he is being crowded by defenders inside, a skill that Bynum lacks.  This would add to the already smooth and crisp Laker offense that Nash will bring.


Though I want greatly for Kobe Bryant to win the season MVP again, it’s highly unlikely.  Even if the Lakers get the best record in the NBA, having a star-packed lineup would undermine Kobe’s chances, since it’s already expected that having a line-up of stars should perform extremely well.  Even if he performs in a high level, like averaging 25+ points a game through a career-best 49 FG%, critics will attribute this – regardless of being reasonable or not – solely to Steve Nash’s playmaking.  If the MVP still happens to go to a Laker, despite the difficulty of someone belonging to a star-packed team to win the MVP, it’s more likely for newcomers Nash – rejuvenating and boosting the Laker offense – and Howard – lifting the Lakers’ defense to elite status – to be credited and picked by the media (the guys who will vote for the MVP).  Kobe is in a disadvantage here.

If all three of them perform well during the Finals, the same dilemma arises for Finals MVP.  However, with or without MVP awards, what matters most is winning that championship.  I want to experience another glorious and joyful June because of a Laker championship.  Anything short of a championship is failure.  Championship > MVP.             


Still hoping that last season’s awesome performance by Jeremy Lin would be exceeded or, at least, repeated in Houston.  I pray he’ll blow us away… all for God’s glory!    

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