June 02, 2009
Five rather simple ways the Los Angeles Lakers can win the NBA Finals, written by a rather naïve man with suspect basketball intelligence ...
1. Work the offense, Kobe.
Are we really going down this path again? Sigh.
I'm not calling him a ballhog. He even had 11 assists in one loss to the Magic. I am calling him a ball dominator, and that absolutely kills Los Angeles' chances. Just wrecks them. The Laker offense needs to go inside-out, and Kobe has to realize (nearly 10 years into working with this offense) that he can be a disruptive, selfish force even if he does toss around 11 assists.
Pau Gasol(notes) averaged 11 shots per game against the Magic during the regular season. Kobe averaged 28.5 (shooting 42 percent) shots per game, and he got to the line nearly 10 times a contest. Think of just how much he has to handle the ball just to put up that many shots, and get to the line that much.
The offense can't be that Kobe-centric -- I don't care if he's scoring a ton or garnering assists -- if the Lakers want to win.
Hedo's not the perfect point forward, you can see all sorts of angles through the benefit of the TV camera that he -- and this is no fault of his own, he's not a natural point guard -- misses on screen and roll, but he can be a devastating force at times.
With all sorts of length and quick feet, the Lakers should be able to stay down, eliminate the obvious passing angles and force Hedo into working as an in-the-paint finisher, shooting over Trevor Ariza(notes) with Kobe cheating down from Courtney Lee's(notes) spot in the corner, and two 7-footers ready to pounce from over his left shoulder.
Actually, he doesn't have to prove it. He can't guard Rashard Lewis. Pau is a sometimes-center but mostly-power forward taking on a small forward that acts like a shooting guard while playing power forward. Whew.
Best for the Lakers? Lewis can be timid. He doesn't have a natural inclination to take over games, even though his shooting, triple-threat work and post-up ability make him a natural go-to guy. If the Lakers can find a way to make Lewis think of himself as an afterthought, something he's (sadly) prone to do too often, that's one problem solved.
4. Don't be afraid to tinker, Phil.
You're telling me a big lineup with Luke Walton(notes) or Kobe Bryant(notes) checking Anthony Johnson(notes) or Rafer Alston(notes) wouldn't work, with Luke initiating the offense on the other end and Lamar Odom(notes) taking Ariza's place? Or just Kobe out there, with Ariza at shooting guard (all he does is shoot threes and run the baseline, anyway) and the triple-towers approach on Howard?
Go long, scare a center. Go long, scare a screen and roll.
5. Understand your potential.
Another way of saying, "Don't be a bunch of arrogant schmucks, kay?"
The Lakers lost to the Magic twice this year. Important.
More important? They lost to the Magic twice by a total of only nine points, with a currently-injured member of the Magic who might not play in the Finals (and if he does play, we have no idea as to how effective he'll be) scoring 27 and 28 points.
And they lost with Kobe dominating the ball quite a bit. Something that can be remedied, we hope, though Bryant has proven that those remedies are only a passing cure. No pun intended, but properly appreciated.
The Lakers are an outstanding basketball team. They're not great because of the team's star power, a trap that a lot of columnists get into. Rather, they're great because they have an offense that tends to offer way more than the sum of its parts, made almost entirely up of players who are absolutely perfectly suited for this offense.
It's just up to them to run things properly, and play smart defense.
If the Lakers are aware of that potential (likely), know what it takes to take advantage of that potential (sure) and actually execute (eh, an iffy proposition, for a good chunk of the season), then the Magic are in deep trouble.
For five ways the Magic can win it, click here.