Can Lakers Write Storybook Ending to This Tragic Season?
Can the Lakers add another World Championship banner? For the Los Angeles Lakers, this season has been marked by lots of winning, and one unfortunate tragedy: the untimely demise of a beloved icon in Kobe Bryant. The Purple and Gold organized tributes big and small for Bryant, including an impromptu get-together that had current players and coaches sharing their most memorable Kobe stories. The team even brought back their special Black Mamba jerseys for the postseason, wearing it for Game 3 of the Lakers’ first round series against the Portland Trailblazers (which coincided with Bryant’s birthday). Clearly, Kobe’s death still looms over the Lakers’ season, one that could have a storybook ending in which the team win it all — for the city, the fans, and, yes, for their beloved Kobe. But can the Purple and Gold do it? The answer is yes. Above all else, the Lakers have LeBron James, who is still a top-three player in the league. He is also one of the NBA’s premier postseason performers, with a history of big games when the stakes are high. Just four years ago, in fact, LeBron delivered one of his signature plays of any playoffs — a chase-down block on Andre Iguodala that made it onto a list of the most memorable NBA playoff moments compiled by Bwin Sports. The block heard ‘round the world preserved an 89-89 tie, and set the stage for Kyrie Irving’s game-winning trifecta that gave Cleveland their first-ever championship. Now, The King is looking to replicate that same ending this season, and LeBron's fiery start to the postseason is testament to his insatiable drive to that end. Having an all-world running mate in Anthony Davis is a luxury, and is the other big reason why the Lakers can write a fitting finish to this challenging season.
And this Davis is downright fearsome — active, aggressive, and not settling for jumpers. At times, The Brow has actually looked like the Lakers' best player, impacting the game at both ends with his mix of size, skill, and athleticism. Exhibit A: the fact that Davis is up for the postseason challenge is his Game 2 tour de force against the Blazers, where he dropped 31 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and seemed to be everywhere on defense. As long as The Brow is at his best in the playoffs, it will certainly bode well for the Lakers. Together, Davis and LeBron make up what is arguably the league's best duo. It is something one Eastern Conference coach acknowledged back in July, noting how AD and LBJ are "two of the top players in the league.” That said, having a two-headed monster as talented as Brow and 'Bron might not be enough to win it all. As the same coach pointed out, serious title contenders need solid role players, and the Lakers, fortunately, have a roster full of them. "I think that’s what the Lakers have done with the pieces they brought in," said the coach. "They’ve got solid role pieces that complement both LeBron and AD.” Headlining the Lakers' supporting cast is the sweet-shooting Kyle Kuzma, identified by USA Today Sports as the team's X-Factor. LeBron knows this, too, telling reporters, "In order for us to win a championship, he has to be our third-best player." Kuzma looks up for the task, upping his 3-point-shooting percentage from 29.7% pre-bubble to around 44% in Orlando. He'll need to keep shooting well, though, as it will open up the floor even more for the Lakers' two superstars and ease some of the offensive load off of them. Of course, the Lakers will need a fourth and even fifth contributor to step up every game. The team have some options, including a pair of former champions in Danny Green and Rajon Rondo (when he comes back) and veterans Markief Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. In other words, the Lakers have all the key pieces to write that storybook ending to what has been a tragic year for the organization. And it’s something that the Purple and Gold fans will certainly welcome in what has been a truly testing year.