Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Lakers Keep Us Guessing, Kobe's Toughness Keeps Hope Alive
What, the team representing Hollywood has finally awakened?
If the Lakers establish the difference between a riddle and legitimacy, then maybe celebrities and non-celebs in L.A. will understand the minds of a defending champ.
So now, we are left in a mystery in a year the Lakers wilted and deteriorated to the younger and inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that has broken down the Lakers' disoriented (of late) franchise with blazing speed, heart, and athleticism.
The image of the Lakers' erratic postseason has brainwashed our senses, awed and touched by Kevin Durant to suddenly become Durant-addicts and adore his shooting extravaganza.
In an unpredictable postseason, the Lakers have found ways to alleviate near-tragedy, and have recovered from humiliation. Mired in disarray, somehow the Lakers returned to championship form and rebounded by playing aggressively and energetically in Tuesday's Game Five.
Even if the Lakers survive the Thunder, a team with nothing to lose amid an inconceivable postseason run, Kobe Bryant, the man with the hideous facial expressions, will have to wear more than just a ferocious game face.
He’ll have to orchestrate aggressive physical defense and find ways to slow down the explosiveness of the young and speedy Thunder.
And just when it seemed as though his body was breaking down, Kobe still executes and leads the Lakers almost as if in his prime. This isn’t the Black Mamba the world has grown accustomed to, though some may still loathe his one-man team playing and reckless jumpshots.
Even if he is arrogant and self-centered, the fact still remains that he could win multiple titles and surpass the legendary Michael Jordan with the most championship rings as an NBA superstar.
As Kobe enters the late stages of his accomplished career, he’s become notably less selfish, and has been setting up teammates for easy shots inside the paint.
It’s an atmosphere in which celebrities produce TV shows and movies.
If there’s ever been a captivating regular scene in Hollywood, it’s the Kobe Show, a dramatic, mesmerizing basketball spectacle. He always sets the tone, which has been a blueprint to championships during his remarkable career in Los Angeles.
With an injured Kobe, the question now becomes can the Lakers repeat for another NBA Championship?
Whether or not the decision to keep Kobe on the court with injuries in the postseason has backfired for Phil Jackson's Lakers is debatable. In this disappointing first round, he has been shooting under 40 percent, but has also been getting his teammates involved, limiting himself to 16-20 shots per game.
Kobe has so far withstood two broken fingers on his shooting hand, wobbly knees, a bruised elbow, hamstring issues, and back spasms. He has still played. He has still attempted shots.
He has still bailed the Lakers out of tough situations, such as drilling buzzer-beaters and hard-driving in the paint.
Like it or not, Kobe’s health status raises concern, even if he wants all people to believe that he's robust.
If he’s not healthy enough to be on the court in pivotal minutes of a tight game, then the Lakers chances of sustaining the back-to-back triumph could be tarnished.
With the way things have been going, it seems that Kobe is incapable of scoring 40-plus points. Just look at his performance in Game Four, when the Thunder pummeled the Lakers at the Ford Center in front of a delirious and rambunctious crowd. In that game, the Thunder kept Kobe from even getting a shot up in the first 15 minutes.
Not long ago, Kobe signed an $83.5 million extension that will pay him $30.4 million in 2013-14. As the years have progressed, he has matured and trusted in his teammates to produce.
This made for a markedly different Game Five, in which he was a playmaker and facilitator, passing the ball to teammates to create the better play, at times even in situations when he could have taken the open jumpshot.
Kobe may be a bit slower in his step and not as explosive as he used to be on the inside, but he’s still the determined and competitive superstar for Los Angeles.
By delivering on both ends of the court, Kobe held Russell Westbrook, the Thunder’s explosive guard, to 4-of-13 in field goals, and forced him to commit eight turnovers. This was enough to save the battered Lakers from doom.
They took a quick lead in the beginning of the game, and bounced back in a 111-87 rout to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Kobe had once again saved the Lakers, and he is praised for accepting the challenge of shutting down Westbrook. His team even kept Kevin Durant, the youngest player ever to lead the league in scoring, to only 17 points.
The Lakers have gained more momentum with the impressive game of Paul Gasol, who had 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, 11 rebounds, and five assists. Their gigantic center, Andrew Bynum, also had two dunks in the first five minutes.
We never know what to expect from the Lakers in the playoffs, but you certainly cannot rule L.A. out of the championship equation, especially if Kobe is healthy and ready to play.