The predictions are usually left up to the fans, analysts and writers of the NBA. We usually take care of the expectations that every team should meet, leave it to the players for the politically correct answers.
Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers is about a month early with figuring out how the Lakers are going to finish a season that hasn’t started yet.
Metta says the Lakers, with their acquisitions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, can go 73-9 this upcoming season. Any basketball fan would know that would mean the Lakers would be breaking the Chicago Bulls’ record of going 72-10 in the 1996 season.
Not to say that it’s possible, but Metta is onto something from the standpoint of how special this team can be with the new acquisitions and how well they fit.
When the Miami Heat came together with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh two summers ago, a lot was made of the talent that looked to establish a dynasty that James said looked to win at least seven championships. One championship into that checklist and the Heat have reason to worry about when they’ll even reach title number two.
In adding Howard, Nash and signing Antawn Jamison to come off the bench, the Lakers have assembled a pretty well-rounded team that looks to rival the best teams Kobe Bryant has played on in his historic career.
It’s been said that because Andrew Bynum is officially out of Los Angeles and has been replaced by Howard that Laker fans will find ways to discredit Bynum’s production. The only detraction you can make about Bynum’s tenure as a Laker is his injury history that became a non-issue last year as he played in 60 games as he made his first All-Star team.
Bynum’s production in itself cannot be discredited considering he’s evolved into the second-best center in the NBA. His mixture of low post scoring, rebounding and shot blocking leave little room for interpretation as to if he was a valuable asset to the Lakers, he was on two title teams. At the same time, it only made upgrading to Dwight an even scarier thing for Laker opponents.
Dwight’s athleticism far exceeds Bynum’s considering Andrew’s knee injuries have robbed him of his once youthful spring. A lot of people harp on Howard’s low post scoring not being the most fluid in the NBA, maybe that’s fair to point out considering there are guys with smoother countermoves, prettier sky hooks and more creative up-and-under moves, but averaging 18.3 for your career isn’t easy when you have no real offensive threats on your team.
Coming to Los Angeles, the Lakers give Howard the best scorer and player of Howard’s career in Bryant, the best power forward of his career with Pau Gasol and his ability to play in the high post for Dwight to operate in the paint and the best point guard in his career with Nash. All of those things can be said for every one of the Lakers’ Big Four, that’s what gives Metta World Peace’s words credence.
Look at the efficiency of Steve Nash. His ability to shoot 56% from the field just last year with a bad back, worse teammates and even worse reason to play his best every night is scary considering the new weapons he will have to draw attention away from him. Nash’s 50/90/40 efficiency will make it easier for Bryant to get maybe the easiest looks of his illustrious career.
For years, Bryant has been able to average between 25-35 points a game with the likes of Derek Fisher, a declining Gary Payton, Smush Parker and Chucky Atkins running the offense, the opportunity to have Nash’s magician-like ball handling at his disposal is going pay huge dividends.
Nash meshes well with anyone on the Lakers’ roster because he’s played with both superior talent (the 2005-06 Suns) and lackluster talent (the 2010 Suns who came two wins within an NBA Finals berth) and his numbers are eerily similar in each instance. He’s helped Marcin Gortat to a career-year, he helped Jared Dudley get paid huge money, his ability to create a shot from anywhere had Robin Lopez looking like a league average center.
There are a lot of things that have to go right and even more that can’t afford to go wrong for this Laker team to be as special as it could. The Kobe/Pau combo has won two titles without strong point guard play and center play that wasn’t nearly as dominant as Howard can stand to be, even with a bad back.
Whether the Lakers are going to be “73 win special” both remains to be seen and even more unlikely. There are going to be too many road trips, too many teams that are gunning to knock of the Lakers to hand them that tenth defeat and, more than anything, the Lakers won’t NEED to win 73 games this year.
With Kobe on his last legs, Nash’s back troubles, Howard recovering from back surgery and the “title or bust” mindset that this Lakers team can’t but adopt, the focus will be more on a title than a record that won’t mean anything come the postseason. Ask the 2007 Mavericks, the 2008 and 2009 Cavaliers, winning matters when you’re the last one to win.
Metta may be a little off his rocker with saying the Lakers are going to win 73 games, that’s fine. He’s on the right track with saying how special this team is going to be, though. Dwight’s rugged defense and athleticism plays a perfect contrast to Pau’s finesse game that defers to others. Kobe’s scoring prowess is only going to become more efficient and effective with a guy who is known for his desire to forever pass the ball.
It’s like some sort of perfect fit, a weird way of blessing Laker fans with another title run even when there’s only one second round win between the last two seasons.
The Lakers may not be 73-win good, but they don’t have to do that in order to be special. That’s what Metta was getting at when he predicted such a great year. Of course, he’ll have to do more than average 7 points on 39% shooting in order to add to that greatness, but at least he was on target this time.
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