Watching the Lakers dominate on Friday night, I saw this deep, all-around team, lead by the dominant player in basketball, Kobe Bryant, get back to the series they were aiming for since last June. Fighting through the Western Conference’s top teams, the Lakers showed the depth, leadership, and coaching that is needed to win a title.
As I said before the season began, the Lakers have by far the best, deepest team in the NBA and the “Magic” will need just that to stretch the series to six. Boston was a shell of the team that won the title last year, due in most part to injuries, but also due to personnel moves and aging, and Cleveland is the most over-rated group of journeymen to get to a conference championship series in years. It did not take that good of a team to win the east, and the Lakers will show the “experts” who picked Denver to be playing next Thursday night what a true championship team looks like.
James, Howard, Wade, etc. are all great players, but Kobe is by far still number one, and his leadership alone, as he demonstrated Friday night, is enough to pull out close, key games. Gasol, Odom, and Ariza are playing like monsters, Luke Walton and Shannon Brown are providing tremendous vigor and intensity, and I feel strongly that in the finals the rest of the deep and talented Laker backcourt will have more than a few highlight moments. And, slowly but surely, Andrew Bynum (who, remember missed three+ months up to the start of the playoffs with a serious knee injury) is rounding into form.
Mr. Howard, who may well be number two to Kobe, will certainly have his moments, and score his points, and be dominant on the boards, but professional basketball is not a one-man game (right, LeBron?) and a team effort, led by the real number one, will be the reason the Lakers make up for last year’s frustrating, demeaning, embarrassing, NBA finals.