Forget trying to beat the Bulls 72 win season. Every season a team starts off hot, fans and analysts start talking about how it’s reachable. Forget it. It’s not even worth mentioning this record until you’ve played about 50 games. It’s nearly impossible to maintain such a high level of play for so long, I’m not saying the Lakers can’t do it, but it’s tough. You need a collection of talent that remains healthy and motivated throughout the season. Not only would this require all of the Lakers’ main players to stay healthy (don’t count on it, Kobe, Pau, Bynum, and Ron will surely miss some time during the season), but they need to stay hungry all-season long. Although the Lakers do have two of the top competitors in the league, Kobe and Ron, don’t expect them to compete for this record. Instead, look for the Lakers to win slightly over 60 wins this season and keep an eye on the following storylines which could make this season EPIC.
The Last Stand: In all likelihood this is Phil Jackson’s last season as Laker coach. That means whether or not the Lakers win the championship this year, next year will already be a more difficult path since they’ll be changing coaches. Throw in the budding powerhouses in Oklahoma, Miami, and other improving teams, as well as the aging of the Lakers’ nucleus, and the Lakers’ don’t have that much time left. Although I remain steadfast that the Lakers still have at least 3 years of championship contention (at the end of which Kobe will be 35), nothing’s for certain in the NBA. What if a few lucky shots don’t go their way and they don’t win a championship this year. What if somebody gets injured next year? Suddenly that window of opportunity is much smaller. On the other hand, what if they do win the championship this year. Phil Jackson has always said that 3 championships in a row is the longest a team can maintain the level of focus and play that is required to win a championship. This mean’s if they win the championship this year, maybe they spend next year a little less focused and transitioning into a new system and don’t win. Suddenly Kobe will be 34, Pau, Lamar, and Ron are 32 and the rest of the league has had 2 seasons to catch up. If the Lakers win the championship, they’ll tie Boston for the most championships in NBA history with 17 Larry O’Brien trophies. They’ll have completed their second 3-peat in the Kobe Bryant era, and be one of the few teams to even have accomplished such a feat. One thing’s for certain, as Phil Jackson tries for his fourth 3-peat of his career, this one is most certainly going to be his last. *Oh and let’s not forget that many NBA analysts are predicting some form of lockout for the 2011-2012 season, which further puts the Lakers window of opportunity into jeopardy.
Kobe Bryant’s Legacy: Kobe Bryant’s quest to be the best basketball player of all time begins and ends with winning championships. Nobody will argue that Kobe Bryant’s regular season statistics and heroics can surpass Jordan’s. Nobody can even begin to argue that Kobe Bryant’s playoff statistics and heroics surpass Jordan’s either. However, with each passing season and each won championship, Kobe Bryant’s accomplishments accumulate. If he finishes his career with as many championships as Jordan, his historical significance and relevance will automatically be magnified. He may never be known as a better player than Jordan, but he may be known for having a better career than Jordan. I’m sure nothing would satisfy Kobe more than finishing his career with more championships than Jordan, being known as one of the greatest of all time and leading the Lakers to more championships than Boston, finishing with at least 2 more championships than Shaq, and retiring with certainly a plethora of career records, milestones, and achievements. Kobe could possibly finish his career more decorated than any superstar other than Bill Russell. Of course this goal requires Kobe to win at least one more championship this year.
So that’s it Laker fans, get ready for the 2010-2011 Laker season. It may be the most entertaining, intriguing, and epic Laker season we’ll see in our lifetime.