This is an extended version of the review of my preview that I wrote for Jeff over at CelticsBlog.com…
It’s unbelievable how far the Lakers have come since I wrote my pre-season appraisal (LA Thrown Under The Buss?) of what was in store for LA’s premier franchise.
Talk about off the mark with my cries of doom & gloom. That’s not to say I was totally wrong – I still believe that the Lakers have been largely mis-managed, but hell… the front office certainly came through with the goods this season… and actually, there were a lot of things that I was pretty close to the money on.
What I didn’t figure on was that LA would finally add some much needed help (in the form of Pau Gasol), nor would I have hazarded a guess that they would have gotten that help so cheaply.
As I said back on October 29th, 2007 – I was bitter.
Quite a few years had gone by, and with each one I’d get enthusiastic about the possibility that LA’d add someone of note.
Hell, I was getting excited about the possibility of Jermaine O’Neal coming to LA… and they added much, much better with Pau Gasol.
“Even so, my gut feeling is that the Lakers play with the ol’ Black Mamba for another season…”
Spot on. But slipped way short of the mark when I followed that with:
“…and we go through all of this (this being the drama regarding Kobe during the off-season) multiplied by 10 next year.”
Well, that’s obviously not going to happen.
Kobe will be very happy with the outlook of the Lakers for the foreseeable future. That’s one helluva roster they’ve now got.
A lot of the younger guys stepped up a notch or seven this year, and the emergence of Andrew Bynum as one of the Association’s top young centers has been a pleasant surprise. Perhaps that’s even understating it. If Bynum can continue to improve, forget the proviso there of ‘young center’… he’ll be one of the NBA’s top centers, period.
The Gasol trade not only meant the acquisition of an All-Star calibre power forward, but it helped the Lakers cope with the injury Bynum suffered.
The Lakers have thrived since Gasol joined. The fears that nay-sayers spurted have all proved to be mere negativity. Gasol has contributed well. Gasol is a top quality player. Kobe has been able to share the ball. Lamar Odom has adapted to Gasol’s presence. Even when Gasol was out with an injury, the roster kept the ball rolling.
Additionally, the trade for Gasol meant that Kwame Brown was out of a Lakers jersey – addition by subtraction. Any time you can add an All-Star caliber forward and not lose one guy in your top 9 players, well… it’s a good day.
That trade pretty much put Mitch Kupchak in line to be the GM of the year.
Or… he won’t get it and people will just scowl and mutter bad things about ‘collusion’.
Ronny Turiaf – perhaps one of my favourite basketballers – really cemented himself as a guy who will give his all wherever, whenever he’s on the court – and not just be that ‘energy guy’. He’s been valuable this season, doing all the little things you expect of the big bodies on a team, often punching way above his weight class. Heart surgery? Did they mess up & put ‘the heart of a lion’ in there?
The addition of Derek Fisher gave LA the ‘veteran presence’ that every team covets. He’s played valuable minutes this season, and whilst Radmanovic (“…looks like Borat & he’s good from 3.”) is still erratic, there are times where he’s playing like an All-Star himself – rebounding like he’s… like he’s Lamar Odom or something!
Adding Trevor Ariza really fleshed out an already emerging bench. Many questioned acquiring him, but in LA (prior to injury) Ariza was beginning to look like he might actually realise his potential, whilst Brian Cook still languishes on a bench, only now in Orlando.
Still, if I’m totally honest – I feel a lot better… a lot more confident about next season than I do about this one… but it’s been a good building block – a lot of positives to be gained this season. On the other hand, it’s not over. And the Lakers have a damn good chance of doing something special in these coming playoffs – one more win & first place in the Western Conference is theirs.
And in all, this season has vindicated the decision making processes of Mitch Kupchak & co.
Reality check: both Kobe & I should be eating humble pie over that one.
Not that Kobe ever will.
Pass me a fork.