The LA Lakers have something to prove this time around.
Kobe Bryant has to prove that he can win without Phil Jackson. Coach Mike Brown has to prove that he can shoulder the expectations thrust upon him by the high bar set by his predecessor. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum seemed to implode last year in the postseason vs the Dallas Mavericks. They need to prove that they form the best frontcourt in the league.
Ramon Sessions has to prove that he can produce on his own while playing the role of point guard on a lineup where all the other starters are better options on offense and have egos to bost. They won’t hesitate to boot out someone who defers too much or too little. Derek Fisher wasn’t good enough and those are some shoes to fill. Jordan Hill has to prove that when people say “I got Jordan on my team. Hee hee, Jordan Hill that is.” They aren’t trolling anymore. Andrew Goudelock has to prove that he isn’t a mage in a RPG or a character in a fairy tale. Metta World Peace has to prove that he can bring about World Peace(?).
Last year vs the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers came across as a petulant team who could win if they chose to, but didn’t really want to go through the bother of doing so. Players weren’t challenging shots, on offense it seemed like every man for himself. And instead of retaliating through their game, they gave out cheap shots to tiny JJ Barea. Andrew Bynum even stated publically that the Lakers were having trust issues.
That was when the Lakers were on the verge of a three peat. One possible theory for their implosion could be that some of them were resentful of not getting enough credit for their contribution towards the last two championships and they wanted to say “Go ahead, see if you can win without me.”
As if the basketball Gods heard this, they plucked out Kobe Bryant from the Lakers lineup for a few games. The Lakers went 5-2 in Kobe’s absence. One of the losses included a tough one to the San Antonio Spurs. There’s no question that the Lakers need Kobe Bryant for the playoffs. But what role they need him to play can be endlessly debated.
It seems incredible that a team which won two championships in the last three years has something to prove. But after the loss of Phil Jackson and after being swept by the Mavs last year, watch out for some revenge fueled runs from the Lakers this postseason.