Five Reasons Lakers Are Better
Considering their roster was deeper and more talented than it has been in years, a lot of us expected the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers to be better this season.
But no one expected them to be this much better. Not this early, anyway.
At 7-0, they are just cruising at the moment, looking for all the world like they’re still better than any of the other contenders out there, Miami hype or no Miami hype.
So how are they doing it? Why do they suddenly look more invincible than ever? Here are five good reasons:
1. Kobe’s knee is much better. After suffering all last season and then under going off-season surgery, the expectation was that Kobe Bryant’s knee would eventually improve. But after an ugly exhibition run, it appeared it would be a while. Well, guess what? He’s looked like his old self in the first seven games, averaging 31 minutes a night and shooting with his old touch. So much for that problem.
2. Pau is rested and hungry. Pau Gasol didn’t wear himself out playing for Spain this summer, and he’s opened the season looking fresher and friskier than ever. Through the first couple of weeks, Gasol has been the best player in the NBA, averaging 24.1 points and 10.9 rebounds and becoming the team’s go-to guy almost as often as Kobe. This could be the year the Lakers have two players make first team All NBA.
3. The Bench. We wrote that GM Mitch Kupchak’s off-season acquisitions were better than people realized, and now it’s there for everyone to see. Steve Blake is the perfect point guard to complement Derek Fisher, who needs more rest these days. Even better, he is the solid three-point shooter this team has needed for years. Matt Barnes is the new energy guy, who runs, rebounds and defends at fast-forward speed. Combined, the two of them make this a much deeper team than the one the past couple of years.
4. Lamar Odom is bringing his A-game most nights. If you’ve read me before, you know I’ve been one of Odom’s biggest critics. His inconsistency drove people nuts in the past. But after a big summer performance with Team USA, the multi-talented big guy has come back a different player. No one has ever questioned his talent, and yes, I know it’s early. But how do complain about his 15.9 points and 11.1 rebound average so far? You don’t.
5. Mr. Low-Key Ron Artest has adjusted. It took him much of last year to get with the triangle and to feel at home with his teammates. But by the time the playoffs rolled around, Artest was his old nasty self, and he’s carried that over to a new season, playing well at both ends of the floor and keeping his “antics” to a minimum. When he is playing like this, he is a very valuable guy to have around.
The only downside to any of this is that you have to understand it’s a long season. There are always bumps in the road, and this year will be no different.
But the way these guys are playing, and with Andrew Bynum warming up off-stage, well, there is no telling how good they might be come playoff time.
Yes, you’d have to say it’s a very good time to be a Lakers fan right now.
— STEVE BISHEFF