The Lakers began last season as an elite team, also a favorite in the Western Conference but months before they were embarassed by the Celtics in the NBA Finals. Out on a journey, Kobe felt propelled to lead his team to the Finals and ultimately, the NBA Championship.
Along the way center Andrew Bynum had to suffer through tearing his kneecap once again and was expected to miss 8-10 weeks. With the leadership of Phil Jackson and the play of Lamar Odom, they weathered the storm.
The Lakers finished as the #1 seed in the West and woon the opening series 4-1 against Utah Jazz. Next, they became entangled with a physical Houston Rocket team, but escaped 4-3, due to Yao Ming suffering a stress fracture in his foot in Game 3.
The next storm was Chauncey Billups and the Nuggets. Carmelo Anthony and his team pushed the Lakers in the first four games with the series even at 2-2, each team having won on the road. Eventually the Nuggets' discipline or lack there of exposed itself. Melo' couldn't finish games and the shots weren't falling down the stretch, subsequently ending the series in Game 6.
The Lakers finally shut the door in the Magic's face in Game 5 when they closed the deal and Kobe won his fourth title.
After a 65 wins and the departure of swingman Trevor Ariza, Phil Jackson is back at it!
PG Derek Fisher 6'1 210 lbs.-Fisher is a veteran point guard who still seems to be clutch. Although the potential Hall of Famer is aging, he shot 40% from the 3-point line and 84.6% at the charity stripe.
SG Kobe Bryant 6'6 205 lbs.-Absolutely the best player in the NBA. He scores with and without the ball in his hands by setting up his teammates. Kobe shot over 46% from the field and averaged 4.9 assists
SF Ron Artest 6'7 256 lbs.-Aggravating at times but he plays hard each night, particularly on defense. He is a complete small forward and is an upgrade from Trevor Ariza. He should provide a different vibe to this team.
PF Pau Gasol 7'0 250 lbs.-Gasol arguably finished the Finals as the best power forward. He shot 56% from the field and is also an underrated defender. He played Dwight Howard extremely well while making Howard defend him every play.
C Andrew Bynum 7'0 285 lbs.-Bynum has been the mystery man over the last couple seasons. Bynum tore his knee apart in two straight seasons, missing time when the Lakers were peaking at their best. However he managed 14.3 ppg and 8.0 rpg. He also threw to the side Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the upcoming campaign.
6th Man Lamar Odom-At 6'10, Lamar is a tough cover for any defender. He is an inside-out weapon that is unguardable when he wants to be. Although, he'd like to be a starter, he knows how vital he is off Phil Jackson's bench. Averaged 11.3 ppg along with 8.2 rpg.
Jordan Farmar is an excellent compliment to Fisher coming off the pine. He plays smart and is solid defensively. Shannon Brown has a different vibe for the entire team with hustle and energy. He's a decent shooter and at 6'4 is outstanding defensively.
Sasha Vujacic was suspect last season and shot poorly when called upon. The Lakers may look to deal him and his phony contract. Adam Morrison is pure scorer and could get minutes if he isn't trigger happy. Luke Walton is extremely skilled and at 6'8 is handles the ball decently and is deceptively quick.
DJ Mbenga is the most underrated center you've never heard of. He hustles and plays solid defense when Phil calls on him. He blocked seven shots in place of Bynum and Gasol a few nights ago, which showed his motor and determination. Josh Powell, another underrated PF who is smooth as silk and knocks down jumpers with ease. He should be a key contributer.
The Lakers are in my opninion, the deepest NBA team. From top to bottom, all players can make plays and now have NBA Finals experience. The addition of Artest allows Kobe to rest often and he doesn't have to guard top perimeter athletes every game. Artest is dynamite waiting to explode but is a terrific pick-up by GM Mitch Kupchak.
Kobe and Fisher are as poised as it gets and have another ring in reach. They together, have played in countless postseason games and are unquestionably seasoned.
The bench has potential stars in Farmar and Brown.
I like the depth of the frontcourt and Gasol may be an All-Star if he's healthy. Bynum should easily average a double-double this season. We all know the candy man Lamar Odom got married but that spotlight should be enough to keep his mouth closed and keep him focused on another title.
Phil Jackson is shooting for an unprecedented 11 NBA Championships. This would only further his legendary status.
The Spurs should be a team positioned to knock the Lakers' hustle with Tim Duncan, Richard Jefferson and Tony Parker healthy.
Portland is also on the prowl but the stage looks too bright for them.
In the East, Boston and Cleveland have loaded up for the shootout with Orlando. However, he Lakers will finish 65-17 and win the West. The Lakers are well-equipped to beat the Eastern Conference Champions in the Finals once more
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