What can the Lakers do for an encore?
October 15, 2020
The Lakers championship season ended six days ago and the buzz has already started. Can they repeat? Will they have the same team? Will Father time catch up to LeBron James? Will free agent Anthony Davis resign with the Lakers?
There are still a lot of questions to be answered but one thing is certain. The Lakers weathered the storm and came out on top in one of the most amazing and at the same time unpredictable NBA seasons ever. From the China trip controversies last summer, to the death of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and having to navigate through the pandemic the Lakers rode the perfect storm to a championship.
"Now we have a target on our back," said Anthony Davis after the championship game last Sunday in the NBA Bubble in Florida. "Teams are going to come after you. Guys want to take out the champions."
Talent, coaching, chemistry and motivation are some of the important pieces to the complex puzzle that helps build championships. And probably the most important factor of all is to stay injury free.
"I think personally thinking I have something to prove fuels me," said James who will be 36 years old in a few months. "It fueled me over the last year and a half since the injury. It fueled me because no matter what I have done in my career to this point, there's still little rumblings of doubt or comparing me to the history of the game, and has he done this, has he done that."
There will always be arguments about who is the greatest basketball player in history. From Bill Russell to Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Magic Johnson but the number one comparison will always be between James and Michael Jordan.
If you listen to Lakers' first year head coach Frank Vogel his vote goes to James. "I took the job because of LeBron James. He is the greatest basketball player the Universe has ever seen. This roster was put together over night and he led us to the promise land so they say. I can't say enough about him."
Playing inside the Disney World complex Bubble for over three months was hard on everyone. "With so much going on inside the bubble and us going into the unknown, it was kind of hard for me personally," said James. "Once I got inside here, I said, okay, this is my mission. I want to win a championship, that's why I am here."
Basketball is still a team game and the Lakers team played like a band of pirates. All for one and one for all. "It took a lot of sacrifice but I had my teammates, my brothers to keep me level headed," said Kentavious Caldwell-Pope after the big game. "Everything the team did was together and the chemistry we have is tremendous. We are all brothers at the end of the day."
Caldwell-Poe and several other key role players stepped up when they had to. Coach Vogel used just about every player on the roster during the regular season and the playoffs.
Guards Quinn Cook, JR Smith, and Dion Waiters helped the team during the regular season and guards Alex Caruso, Danny Green and Rajon Rondo were outstanding in the playoffs. Although Green missed a game winning shot in Game 5 of the finals he hit a lot of key shots during the season and in the playoffs, and don't forget about Avery Bradley. Bradley was a starter during the regular season but decided not to go to the Bubble. He was instrumental in helping the Lakers the first four months of the season.
Ronda was spectacular in the playoffs. He was a quarterback and coach on the floor and he lived up to his nick name, Playoff Rondo. He scored 19 points in the final Game 6. A lot of so-called basketball experts said Rondo could not shoot. He proved them wrong and after 14 years in the NBA you have to wonder what movie his critics have been watching.
The Lakers big men role players played their roles perfectly. JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard, Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris did everything coach Vogel ask them to do. They rebounded and scored when they needed to.
The NBA will be better next year because a lot of teams will be healthy but if the Lakers can continue to play with that same philosophy they can repeat as champions.