Phil Jackson often uses the metaphor of a journey when he talks about winning a championship. Using his metaphor, the road back to an NBA Championship next season looks like it may be a bit harder than it was this last.
A few days ago I wrote a blog I called, “The Rich Get Richer.” In it, I looked at this last season’s title contenders and one by one talked about what they had done to get better (or worse) from where they were this last season. It contained draft information, trades, and people who, due to healing from injuries, would be more of a factor this coming season than they were last season.
Then I clicked “Submit” (or whatever it is) and the browser waited forever then crashed and the story was lost.
Annoyed, I stayed away for a time.
I’m still unwilling to redo it, but to (very) roughly summarize, the Mavericks, the Celtics, the Cavaliers, the Magic and the Spurs appear to have SIGNIFICANTLY improved themselves over the teams they had last season.
And let’s not forget the Blazers, who seem to have the Lakers’ number, matured and got better as well.
That’s not to say the Lakers didn’t shake things up a bit as well in the off season, and Odom is not yet in the bag so more may come, but it isn’t at all clear that the Lakers have improved themselves with the loss of Ariza and acquisition of Artest.
Also weighing in for the Lakers is Andrew Bynum. Without a doubt the kid has shown promise, but this season will need to start making good on that promise — and in a consistent way (assuming Artest’s scoring reflex doesn’t stunt Bynum’s growth).
Of particular concern is Pau Gasol.
Gasol will be playing for Team Spain in September in the European Basketball Championship.
Pau Gasol logged 931 minutes in the playoffs, 4th most of any player in the playoffs, but the only 7 footer. And they were active minutes as Pau was the 2nd best rebounder in the post season, and #2 in blocked shots as well.
And in the regular season, Pau Gasol ranked #14 in minutes played for the entire NBA, and was the only 7 footer in the top 20.
That is a lot of wear and tear — especially for a big.
Factor in the fact that Spain played as many Olympic games as Team USA last summer and was in the gold medal game, and that Pau was Spain’s main go to guy, then Lakers fans HAVE to be concerned about Pau in the coming season.
What if Pau goes down this coming season and the Lakers’ hopes for a repeat fall onto the inconsistent shoulders of Andrew Bynum doing the big man duties? In the post season Bynum could hardly keep himself on the floor due to foul trouble, much less be counted on to defend, rebound and score in the post.
And what of the miles on Kobe’s legs as well?
Last year’s team with the second best regular season record may well find this coming year’s road fraught with even more peril. They may find their wills, and their chemistry, tested and proven.