He's baaaaaaack! (ESPN)

Crown Our Ass: Lakers Became NBA Champs Last Night

I hate to be a premature prognosticator, but David Stern should just go ahead and crown our ass; the Los Angeles Lakers will be your 2009 NBA Champions.

How do I figure?

1. The Magic have the Cavs on the ropes. The Magic. A team that struggled against a depleted Celtics team that needed seven games and 129 overtime periods to sneak by the 41-41 Bulls. I think it’s safe to say that either the Lakers or Nuggets would handle Dwight Howard and Co. with relative ease.

2. If the Magic do win the Eastern Conference Finals, and they lead the series 3-1, the Lakers would have homecourt advantage in that Finals match-up.

3. After the Lakers’ big Game Five win, the Nuggets statistically only have a 17 percent chance of winning the Western Conference Finals. Considering that the Lakers are the most talented team in basketball with the league’s best closer, I’d knock that percentage down to about 10. And I think that’s being generous. Add that Phil Jackson’s teams have won 16 of the last 17 series when up 3-2, and you can drop that down to about five percent.

4. Lamar Odom’s back is finally back to being healthy, and coincidentally he seems to have rediscovered his one-of-a-kind Swiss Army Knife game. When he plays like he did tonight, no team can beat the Lakers. This is why I think he can continue to play at a high level. He holds himself accountable.

5. The Lakers biggest weakness is the point guard position. Chauncey Billups poses a much, much bigger threat than anything out East. Rafer Alston looks pretty good now, but I think that’s more Delonte West and Mo Williams being exposed as frauds than anything else. I think the Lakers match-up better with both the Cavs and Magic than they do the Nuggets, mainly because of how much better Billups is than any PG either of those teams can put on the court.

6. Depth. The Lakers are the deepest team in the league. I think Phil Jackson rationing the stars’ minutes in the regular season is starting to pay dividends, and will pay off even more in the Finals.

As you can see, tonight was a huge win.

I honestly think this team transformed into a champion before our very eyes tonight. That run just felt special. You had Shannon Brown electrifying the Staples Center. Pau Gasol running the offense. Lamar “Candyman” Odom in full-fledged beast mode. Most importantly, Kobe Bryant had his M.J. game. You know, the game where it is rendonkulously obvious that he cares more about winning than any stat. The point where the player says, you obviously have to respect me, so now I am going to help my teammates become just as good at beating you as I am.

The play where Kobe had a wide-open three late in the fourth and decided to hit a hot Lamar Odom instead was the moment which best represented that. Sure, it was the higher-percentage shot, but I don’t think that was his only motive. Kobe’s confidence is sky high. Meanwhile, L.O. has been struggling mightily in this series. Kobe knows he will need Odom to win it all. With a substantial lead, he knew continuing to build Odom’s confidence back with an easy two was more important than his potential three.

You also saw Kobe doing similar things with Gasol. In the fourth quarter, Gasol was matched-up with Chris “Birdman” Anderson. Knowing that Bird is a great help defender who was mismatched guarding Pau one on one, Kobe told Pau to take him. He showed faith in his teammate and Gasol rewarded him with a bucket. Kobe also was smart to step back and allow the offense to run through Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza with the two-man game on multiple occasions. Not only was the strategy wildly successful, but he will need both Ariza and Gasol in order to win a championship.

Maybe the most amazing super teammate play was when Kobe drew the defenders and kicked to a colder-than-his-native-Slovenia-in-the-Winter Sasha Vujacic for a wide-open three-pointer to end the first half. Kobe obviously has more confidence in the Machine than the Machine does at this point. This could pay off, though , and Kobe, as well as Phil I suspect (Why else would he keep playing Sasha?), knows this. After all, who knows when Sasha might have to step up and be John Paxson to Kobe’s Michael Jordan. This was a pretty big shot, so it could really help restore his confidence looking forward.

Kobe Bryant may have just lifted his teammates for the rest of the playoffs with his Magic Johnson-like performance tonight (hell, Magic even called it earlier from the studio). Sure, they will never be as good as him, but they may start to share more of both his confidence and consistency. Considering that the Lakers have a talent level that rivals the 80s Lakers, yeah, that’s a scary proposition for the Cavs, Magic and Nuggets. Like I said, crown our ass.

Tags: Chauncey Billups Cleveland Cavs Denver Nuggets Kobe Bryant Lamar Odom Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson Michael Jordan Nba Championship Orlando Magic Pau Gasol Phil Jackson Sasha Vujacic Shannon Brown Trevor Ariza

  • scalito

    “A team that struggled against a depleted Celtics team that needed seven games and 129 overtime periods to sneak by the 41-41 Bulls”?

    And the Lakers were taken to 7 games by a severely depleted Rockets team. No matter how you spin it, that series should have been over in 5 games, maybe 6 – but you couldn’t do it. Finish the Denver series before discussing the Finals. Regardless, Boston was the best team in B-ball last year but played 2 or 3 seven game series, yet they were still the best. Even if Orlando “struggled” in one series doesn’t mean it’ll happen again.

  • Economics Daily

    In Game 5, the Lakers were able to get aggressive and pump up their energy when Derek Fisher left the floor.
    They were not able to do that in game 4 because Fisher stayed on the court until it was too late.
    Fisher no longer has a game. He enables the Denver offense and severely handicaps the Laker offense.
    I hate to say this because I understand he is a great person and liked by all, but it is true. He was a good player, but he no longer has any game.
    And Farmar and Brown are ready and eager to help the team win. The longer Fisher sits, the more assured the Lakers will be to win.

  • scalito

    “The Lakers are the deepest team in the league.”

    not true. Aside from Odom (who is currently injured and sporadically good or bad at any given time) there is no one on the Lakers bench that consistently makes positive contributions to the team. Are you seriously counting on Farmar, Bynum, Shannon Brown, Sasha, Walton, AND Powell? Where is Powell by the way?

    This is an emoblog. Just tell the truth. And no, nothing special happened last night. When Sasha hit the three to tie the game at the end of regulation, I pretty much knew the Lakers would eventually win the GAME not the ENTIRE freaking playoffs…the body language too of Denver suggested Lakers would dominate the 4th.

  • http://justblogbaby.com/ Just Blog Baby

    The Lakers played like champs in game 5 for sure! I’d like to believe that they’ve turned the corner, but I need to see more evidence. If they close out the Nuggets in six then I’ll co-sign with your “Crown our ass” take.

    However, Odom’s back is still in bad shape. According to Plaschke’s article in the LA Times today, Odom has got a huge knot filled with blood that Gary Vitti can’t figure out a remedy for. Odom’s sporting a brace that he says makes it difficult to breathe at times. My man in just gutting it out right now, showing real heart.

    Having home court againt Orlando is huge, if it comes to that. However, I’m not so positive that it would be a cake walk. Remember that the Magic beat our Lake Show twice this year the last time in LA despite an Oscar Robertson from Kobe. Orlando’s bigs pose a real problem with those high screen/rolls that Phil and Co. just can’t seem to defend.

    I hope everyone saw that play you talked about when KB24 found L.O. for an and 1 when he faked the shot and caught everyone in Downtown LA by surprise by passing. People love to compare KB to King James, but as of now there is nothing to talk about. That play said it all. KB24 has a feel for the game that LeBron doesn’t. Never mind the skill arguments, Kobe changed his game to suit his team’s needs and realized that Lamar was having a monster night and needed a moment in the sun. When LeBron understands that some nights you have to do less in order to get more out of your team then the talk can start. Until then, I’ll take Kobe Doin’ Work any night over King James and his fantasy stat lines that amount to zero wins.

  • bigyaz

    Deepest team in the league? Ha! Statements like that make it impossible to consider you anything but a Laker fanboy totally unable to look at anything objectively. What a joke.

  • migs

    dude its laker fans like you who give us the reputation we have as arrogant and cocky. how about just taking it one game at a time before crowning ourselves champions.

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  • http://www.westcoastslant.blogspot.com Jordan

    Wow. What a retarded post bro. Half of your information is just flat out wrong. Odom’s back is way messed up, he just warriored through last night. the Magic were MUCH better against the Lakers during the regular season. Kobe shot under 40 percent against them and the Lakers lost both games. Rafer Alston tore up the Cavs two nights ago because that was the game plan for the Cavs…double Howard and make sure they recover on all the shooters, leaving Alston, their worst shooter open. The Lakers team looked deep to begin the season, but Farmar’s injury changed him, Vlad Rad was traded, Sasha can’t find his shot, Bynum hasn’t been close to the same since he came back from injury, and Odom’s back is messed up.

    The rest of your article is pure Laker fanboy love. I’ve been a Lakers fan for all 26 years of my life, and this post makes me physically sick. That’s why I felt the urge to vomit all over it…

    • kareemabduladam

      I typically let my readers have the comment sections to themselves, but…

      Two things:

      1. I wrote this before this before Plaschke’s article revealed the extent to which Odom’s back was still hurting. But even at 70-80% he is still the best bench player in the playoffs. In the league, really. He, Jason Terry and Manu.

      2. I wrote this after my Dad — who knows hoops and hates Kobe Bryant, absolutely loathes him — called me to congratulate me on the championship.

  • http://justblogbaby.com/ Just Blog Baby

    Ok! It’s official. I co-sign on this

    Crown our asses!

  • heh8meN1

    Much thanks to the Jazz, Rockets and Nuggets for sharpening the Lakers shovels and strengthening their will. 12 down and FOUR more to go. Number 15 is for you Chick, we haven’t forgotten. And next year’s is for the cELTICS– the Lakers surely haven’t forgotten.

    Listen to the words of Robert De Niro and tell me he doesn’t know that the NBA playoffs are FANtastic and what it means to be a TRUE FAN.

  • Magic09champs

    Don’t forget that the Magic beat the Lakers at home and on the road this season. Orlando is the best match up against LA. Good series with O-town taking the crown.