Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.
Over the course of a single NBA off-season, a brilliant GM reloads his team’s roster with high profile free agent acquisitions that sends shockwaves throughout the league. Fans are up in arms complaining about the rich getting richer, the big markets attracting all the talent and players having too much power.
It’s a plot the NBA community has gotten used to, like an old television re-run, with each summer bringing a new batch of plots and rumors that either excite or annoy us. This summer, it was our beloved Lakers dominating the headlines. So coming into this season, it’s hard not to make comparisons to arguably the most hyped and scrutinized team in league history: the 2010-2011 Miami Heat.
Before you jump all over me with the differences, I’ll go ahead and point them out for you. No, there wasn’t a “Not 4, not 5, not 6…” coming out party for this year’s Lakers. No, Dwight Howard didn’t reveal the city deserving of his talents as part of an over-hyped television production. And no, I highly doubt Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison and Dwight ever conspired to join forces in Los Angeles.
Nash is in the tail end of his career and in search of that elusive first championship. As is Jamison. As for Dwight, the Lakers just happened to land him in the middle of his prime, much like the Heat with LeBron. But enough about the stars. The glaring difference between these two teams sits on the bench.
Games are won by superstars, no doubt. But the role players keep them alive in the second and thirdquarters. It’s no secret the Lakers are an old bunch, so these players are going to play a huge role in lightening the load for the aging Kobe & Co. We already have a good idea of what we’re going to get out of Jordan Hill and Steve Blake: hard-played minutes with a few clutch buckets sprinkled in. But when you add Jodie Meeks’ 37 percent three-point stroke and Jamison’s 10-15 off the bench, that’s where this Lakers team really separates themselves from the 2010-2011 Heat. These are players who have shined on past teams and have taken a lesser role for that first ring. Couple that motivated bench with ridiculous star power and you get a complete team.
Like another certain thing in life, the more experience you have, the better you’ll be. This is especially true in the NBA playoffs. With a combined 12 Finals appearances for the Lakers starting five, there is no shortage of this. Yes, LeBron and Wade had a couple of Finals appearances, and one win, under their GQ belts. But that’s where the playoff experience on that team ended. With this Lakers team, the experience and leadership is already there with a core that has been there and won that.