It seems like expectations for the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers become higher and higher each day as we head into the end-strech of the off-season. Laker fans are anticipating the first glimpse of the new-look Lakers, as the weaknesses from last season and the one before as well (2010-11) were addressed and potentially solved by management during the summer. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, it is a good time to be a Laker fan.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the importance of building and playing with chemistry in order to achieve ultimate success (a championship). This along with the luck of health will be essential for the Lakers to make a championship run next June. I want to take the next step and discuss the Lakers’ top competition in the West this season, and if and when chemistry becomes a natural for the team.
I will discuss the battles with the Denver Nuggets, the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The competition with the Los Angeles Clippers have already been discussed by Lakers Nation’s Jabari Davis (view article here), so I won’t go into the battle of L.A. I will save the Nuggets and the Spurs discussions for next week, but want to get things started with the presumed biggest competition that the Lakers will face, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
We all are familiar with the general argument that opponents of the Lakers give that the Lakers look good on paper, but that doesn’t mean anything. I agree with this and made my argument for this statement in my article about team chemistry. Kendrick Perkins has certainly made his thoughts on the new-look Lakers quite clear. OKC’s head coach, Scott Brooks, second this emotion while being a little more complimentary to the Lakers.
“We never worry about other teams. We focus on what we do. We still know we have to get better. Our goal, like every other team, is to win an NBA championship. We know it’s going to be tough. We know you can’t skip steps. Last year we got pretty close. Unfortunately we didn’t close the deal and Miami is really good. I thought they deserved it. They outplayed us.”
“The league will have its work cut out [playing the Lakers], but you have to play the game. Nobody in this league will give anybody a game. They will have to fight for every game. Hopefully we end up on top. It’s not going to be easy.”
Both teams will face each other with a bit of a chip on their shoulders from last season. The Thunder knocked the Lakers out of the post-season last May and made it look easy. The Thunder feel like they have a further point to prove since they were beat in the Finals by the Miami Heat, who made that look equally easy. The Thunder are the defending Western Conference champs, and that title alone delegates them as the top dogs of the West, but the Lakers feel different.
With the lineup that the Lakers are coming into the season with,, the Thunder is getting less attention in the media and may go a bit under the radar during the season.
Does that sound like the Spurs from last season or is it just me?
The Thunder and the Lakers have built a separate battle with each other in the West. In the past, it has been a competition between the young guns versus the establishment.
With the additions made to the Lakers and the fact that the Thunder team is still intact and now more experienced, the games between these two juggernauts in the West will be filled with drama, excitement and entertainment. Last season, OKC ran over the Lakers with the pick-and-roll and with the fastbreak. However, that was last season.
Not only have the Lakers addressed that problem by adding players who can defend the pick-and-roll, but they also positioned the team into having one of the most effective and efficient pick-and-roll executors of all-time in Steve Nash. Not to mention that Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill (just to name a few) are great finishers of the pick-and-roll as well.
Additionally, Howard and Metta World Peace’s improved defense and the passing and play making abilities of Nash has automatically given the Lakers another weapon in being fully capable on the break. Plus, the Lakers are quicker and more athletic this season, which will benefit them defending the fast break. The last couple of seasons, the Lakers have been restrained to being a half-court team, which gave the Lakers a headache when facing opponents like OKC.
It is certainly going to be a fun season to watch, especially as a Laker fan. Fans have four chances to watch this presumed top battle in the West during the regular season on December 7th, January 11th, January 27th and March 5th. These match-ups will be hyped and be the game of the week in the NBA, but they have reason to deliver. While these four games will be huge battles and will carry bragging rights, the eyes will still be on the prize (a title) for both teams, just as it should be.
In case you missed it: check out where Kobe Bryant and other Lakers like to call home in L.A.