Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Is this the swan song for the Lakers? Or is Jerry West just being sly about L.A. being too old to play D?
Steve Aschburner: Hahahahahahahaha! We’ve heard this song before, right? Maybe Jerry West was being sincere, but he is a known worrier who tends toward pessimism. Even when the Lakers hit hard times, they don’t last long because something special, something big comes along to fix things fast. Like Wilt, Kareem and Shaq in the middle. Like Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Pas Gasol in the past. Like, um, Dwight Howard in the future? To me, worrying about the Lakers is like fretting about the estate tax: A pretty posh level of hands-wringing.
Fran Blinebury: Yes, the Lakers are getting older. Yes, they are getting slower. Yes, their margin for error has gotten slimmer. Yes, they may have to win a Game 7 on the road in order to accomplish a three-peat. However, if Andrew Bynum can finally stay healthy all the way through the playoffs — yes, that might be a reach — and gain confidence, the Lakers still have the frontline size and talent, not to mention Kobe, to claw their way to another Larry O’Brien Trophy. Yes, it might take an MVP performance from Ron Artest‘s psychiatrist.
Art Garcia: It’s the Logo, so I don’t discount anything he says. I admire that the Lakers, especially Kobe Bryant, understand that criticism is going to come from everywhere. Even at times from franchise icons like Mr. Clutch and Magic Johnson. Remember, West traded for Kobe all those years ago and the respect remains between the two. Kobe doesn’t have to agree with West and he said so last night. I also don’t believe this is a swan song. Champs do lose some of their edge as the years pass, but that hasn’t stopped some from squeezing out another threepeat. See: Phil’s Bulls and Lakers.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Jerry West isn’t being sly. Jerry West is being Jerry West. He’s a stress machine of historic proportions – not as much as when he was on the job, but plenty still – he wants the Lakers to do well, he lives much of the year in L.A. and hears what people there are saying, and he is caught up in it. Yes, the Lakers are aging. But they’re not too old. Statistics back it up.
Shaun Powell: The biggest obstacle for the Lakers is trying to stay motivated through 82 games. Please. Wake me in spring, when Kobe‘s eyes are twitching, and tell me again what the Lakers are incapable of doing.
John Schuhmann: I think they’re still a pretty good defensive team, ranking eighth in efficiency despite only getting 22 games from Andrew Bynum thus far. They were in a similar spot last year and eventually out-defended the Celtics in the Finals (they won the series shooting less than 42 percent). Obviously, Kobe and Fisher are old, but Artest is still one of the best wing defenders in the league and their length inside makes up for the lack of quickness on the perimeter. As long as they’re focused and healthy, I think they’ll be good enough defensively this year. Going forward, it’s obviously all about how well Kobe holds up on both ends of the floor.
Sekou Smith: Jerry West wasn’t necessarily being sly. The Lakers do have 10 players on the roster 30 or older and this is supposed to be Phil Jackson‘s last season as coach, so on paper you would have to believe that they are on the backside of their championship chase. But they haven’t played long enough with a healthy Andrew Bynum for anyone to be able to judge their defensive prowess as a unit. Come playoff time I expect the Lakers to pose the same sorts of problems they have for opposing teams the past few seasons with their long and athletic frontcourt crew of Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest all locked in on the defensive end.