The 5 Biggest Lakers Storylines Heading into the Regular Season

The hardest part of defending a title is maintaining the hunger and drive to succeed the following season. After last season’s All-Star break, the Lakers record was an underwhelming mark of 16-12. But you can be assured this team will not lose its focus and intensity, not as long as Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant are still around.

Remember, the much maligned Fisher managed to come up clutch in the playoffs again last season, as he has done time and time again. What Lakers fan can forget Fisher’s heroics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at The Garden. With the Lakers locked in a dogfight with the hated Celtics in front of a hostile Boston crowd and less than one minute left in the game, Fisher grabbed a rebound off a missed three-pointer by Ray Allen and prompted to run coast-to-coast, beating every player down the other end of the floor and fearlessly hoisting up a layup over three Celtic defenders converging on him.

It wasn’t just the 11 points scored in the 4th quarter that demonstrated his leadership. After the game, Fisher, who had been so unflappable under pressure, could not hold back the tears in his eyes because of the overwhelming emotions that gripped him, realizing that he came through for his team when they truly needed him. That victory put the Lakers up 2-1 in the NBA Finals, a win that is more magnified when one considers how the Lakers needed all 7 games to finally dispose the Celtics.

The Miami Heat garnered all of the attention in the offseason when LeBron James made “The Decision” that he was taking his talents to South Beach to join All-Stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The question was no longer if LeBron and his super friends were going to win the title, but how many. When LeBron was soundly criticized by Hall-of-Fame players, the media and executives around the league, James declared via Twitter that he was taking mental notes on everybody taking shots at him.

LeBron James speaks to reporters following a preseason workout of the Miami Heat NBA basketball team at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach, Florida September 29, 2010.  REUTERS/Joe Skipper  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL HEADSHOT)

While I would like to take LeBron’s threats more seriously, I have difficulty believing he possesses the killer instinct to actually act upon it. If he really wanted to silence his doubters and haters, he would’ve either re-signed with the Cavaliers, taken his talents to the Windy City, or gone to New York, where he would’ve been the alpha dog on the team of his choosing. Instead, he decided to unite with his buddies in Miami, getting paid lavishly (remember, no personal income tax in Florida) so he can have more fun doing his job.

That description makes him seem more like a cast member of Jersey Shore than the world’s best player in pursuit of greatness. In reality, the latter statement sounds more like Kobe’s M.O. Winning back-to-back NBA Titles and improving the roster in the offseason were not enough to convince the Vegas odds makers that the Lakers are still the team to beat in the upcoming season.

If you don’t think Kobe isn’t taking mental notes on the fact that King James and the Miami Heat are already being crowned NBA champions, then you’re sorely mistaken. Remember when Kobe deliberately rubbed it in when he surpassed Shaq for his fifth ring. As much as Kobe reveres both Magic and Michael Jordan, he’s motivated by individual greatness and he’s thinking about another championship and how it will bring him closer to making the argument as the greatest of all-time.

I’m absolutely certain that Kobe Bryant is hell-bent on winning his 6th ring and you can take that to the bank.

Next: The Man at the Helm

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