I’m getting concerned about the Lakers defense.
That is what has pulled them through so far. Despite injuries and Bynum’s funk and and Kobe’s finger and Sasha’s shot going snowboarding with Radmanovic, the Lakers have kept winning because they had been at the top of the league defensively. But in this mini-swoon, that is what has gone away.
It is more than Ron Artest being gone. (By the way, I think Artest said, “I don’t recall” more in his 15-minute press conference last night than Ronald Regan even did.) Artest was there for Cleveland but Los Angeles’ defense wasn’t. The Lakers have gone to a more pressure defense on the wings using the big men they have healthy to protect the rim, but both ends of that have broken down in recent games. In the coming days (or by next week) I hope to have a more detailed breakdown.
This is fixable for sure. But that end of the floor is what I am watching more and more. It was the mantra here last year but it may be truer this year: The Lakers will go as far as their defense will take them.
Darius had this in the comments, and it echoes my thoughts about the growing “Kobe for MVP discussion.”
A couple of fun facts about MVP winners, Scoring Champions, and NBA Champions:
*Only three times in the past 15 years has the league MVP been on the team the won the NBA title: Shaq in the 1999-2000 seaon and Michael Jordan (twice) in the 1995-96 & 1997-98 seasons.
*Only two players in the last 20 years have won the scoring title and the NBA title in the same season. Michael Jordan did it 6 times and Shaq did it once (in his 1999-2000 MVP season).
My point is that the recent trend shows me that I don’t really care if Kobe wins either the MVP or the scoring title. I’d almost prefer that he doesn’t. We all know that Kobe (along with Carmelo and Lebron) one of the most dynamic scorers in the league. We also know that Kobe is one of the best players (along with Lebron) and one of the 2 or 3 most valuable players in the league. I don’t think he needs the hardware to justify his place in the game. If anything, the hardware that will justify his place in the game (not only for today, but for all-time and his legacy) it’s the Larry O’Brien trophy. Let him get a couple more of those and I’d be more than happy.
I still miss Ronny Turiaf