In the summer of 2010, the landscape of the National Basketball Association changed. Three of the league’s premier players, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, all members of the vaunted draft class of 2003, were free agents and made the “decision” to all take their talents to South Beach and play for the Miami Heat. Although they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals that first season, their success was immediate and impactful, as they won the next two championships.
This past season, they made it again to the Finals for the fourth straight season, and many media pundits (specifically ESPN), were ready to vault James as eclipsing the great Michael Jordan, just bypassing the likes of Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. The basketball world as we knew it was over, this was now LBJ’s world. But then something strange happened! The decorated Heat ran into a well-oiled basketball machine called the San Antonio Spurs, who if not for critical missed free throws by Tim Duncan and Tony Parker in the fourth quarter, would have swept the Heat 4-0 in the 2014 Finals.
The Spurs, with not one player averaging 20 points, nor one considered to be a top 10 player (Tony Parker is debatable), used precision passing, superior shooting, effective team defense, and THE BEST coach in league in Gregg Popovich who managed to get all of his 12 active players to totally buy into his system and provide the world with the blueprint for how a great team will – more times than not – beat three great players.
My point is this: this Lakers team, other than Kobe Bryant (who is coming off two major leg injuries and will turn 36-years-old later this month), really don’t have anyone on the level of the Spurs’ best players, nor is Byron Scott considered to be on Pop’s level, but there is no reason why this team cannot completely buy into Scott’s system, and while playing with passion, fire and most of all a huge chip on their shoulders, could not at least challenge for the sixth or seventh playoff spot in the Western Conference. The offense will be heavily Kobe-centric, with a sprinkling in of Carlos Boozer, Nick Young, Jeremy Lin and I hope Michael Beasley if they sign him. There must be a greater desire to stop people on the other end, and that’s where Scott comes in.
If they buy into the blueprint and the system and just believe, the Lakers can make a lot of noise next season, even in a crowded West and with a new Big 3 in Cleveland.