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Even the defending world champion, Miami Heat, cannot comprehend what the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office has been able to accomplish this offseason with their acquisitions of All Stars, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. This is the same team that became the league’s ultimate villain after adding LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to their roster only two summers ago.
That’s just how the Lakers are. One would have a significantly better chance of convincing a child that Santa Claus and the Easter bunny really don’t exist than somehow persuading Lakers general manager, Mitch Kupchak, that patience is a virtue.
If there were any fans out there who actually had some outrageous fantasy that the Lakers weren’t going to land Howard for at least half of a season – which may be the case if they’re unable to sway him into signing a long-term extension before this upcoming season’s trade deadline – shame on them.
His acquisition is a complete leap of faith by the Lakers, considering that he can book a flight to Brooklyn or Dallas as soon as next season ends and there’s literally nothing they can do about it. Usually, that would seem like an unwise move on their part, but in reality, it actually warrants the utmost amount of respect.
Here were the Lakers, inexplicably bounced prematurely in the semifinals for the second straight year after having just won back-to-back NBA titles. Their response? Go out and get Steve Nash, who, at 38 years of age, was still able to lead the league in total assists yet again last season.
That wasn’t enough, though. Even with a core of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Andrew Bynum they still felt the need to make one last splash – a splash that would set off an unstoppable tidal wave that could actually give problems to teams stacked with star power like Miami and Oklahoma City. That splash came in the form of Howard.
In professional sports, teams often tend to invest an excessive amount of concern into their long-term futures, and don’t grab the bull by the horns with what they currently have to compete with. As Bryant approached the end of one of the greatest careers of all time, the Lakers refused to take this route. Using that same savvy that has won them 16 titles – only one behind the Boston Celtics for the most in league history – they gave up essentially nothing in the process of snagging the guaranteed number one center in the league.
By doing so, and also adding quality veteran reserves such as forward Antawn Jamison, guard Chris Duhon, forward Earl Clark and guard Jodie Meeks as well, they’ve assured themselves of the best possible opportunity to win it all right now.
It’s common knowledge that championships have never been won on paper; however, if this grouping of superstars, consistent All Stars, and reserves can live up to their potential on both ends of the floor and remain relatively healthy, you can comfortably presume that a 17th Larry O’Brien trophy is headed to Los Angeles by next June.
As far as the starting unit is concerned, Nash, despite being the oldest of the five, is the most important component. He’ll be the type of floor general that the Lakers haven’t had the privilege of calling one of their own since the greatness that was Magic Johnson back in the good old Showtime days. When you combine his uncanny vision, ability to pass the ball with either hand, having excellent scorers like Bryant, Gasol, and Howard and the new Princeton offense that Los Angeles is implementing, scoring will not be much of a concern.
Bryant, who recruited Nash this summer, will be the biggest beneficiary of the transaction, as he will no longer have to constantly isolate and take a beating in order to create his own shot. A Lakers team where Kobe doesn’t have to always have the ball in his hands? Watch out.
Former Lakers center Andrew Bynum was beginning to blossom into an outstanding young player, and even made his first All Star team last season, but he’s still no Dwight Howard.
Howard’s physique and athleticism was something that Bynum would never be able to match because of his dauntingly wide seven-foot frame. While Bynum was one of the most ineffective pick-and-roll centers in the league during his seven years in Los Angeles, Howard has always been regarded as one of the best in that set since he broke into the league in 2004.
With Nash being the master of the pick-and-roll, Howard’s going to be in heaven.
That athletic ability also makes Howard a significantly better defender than Bynum. Unless Bynum also has three Defensive Player of the Year awards just lying around somewhere, but hasn’t told anyone.
Passion is the one trait that might’ve been the difference between the Lakers having a very good chance with Bynum to becoming the overall favorite with Howard. Bynum’s immaturity on the court occasionally cost the Lakers games, and off the court it continuously left people scratching their heads. Howard may have earned a reputation as being an indecisive brat off the court over the last couple of years, but on the court he’s always given his last ounce of energy.
The Lakers have rolled the dice, now expect them to hit the jackpot.