Archives For laker History

Lakers Countdown: At #7…

J.M. Poulard —  August 12, 2012

When the Decision happened, LeBron James became the symbol of the spoiled athlete that failed to understand just what was happening around him in “real life”. The end result was that he instantly became a villain and represented everything that was wrong about professional sports in the minds of many. Consequently he was booed in every road arena even though he never truly understood why.

How history treats him remains to be seen, but James certainly was not the first athlete to make a questionable decision in terms of how he conducted himself as a professional.

For instance, Kobe Bryant requested to be traded in 2007 but that has since been swept under the rug after winning back-to-back titles afterwards.

Winning tends to make people forget things.

But sometimes, odd actions can make people forget winners.

The best illustration of this clock in at #7 in our Los Angeles Lakers countdown of greatest title teams…

The 1981-82 Lakers

After winning the NBA championship in Magic Johnson’s rookie season in 1980, many thought the Lakers had a chance to get back to the mountaintop in the ensuing season.

Mind you, Johnson was injured early in the season and thus only appeared in 37 games. Despite the prolonged absence of one of their best playmakers and rebounders, the purple and gold managed to win 54 games on the strength of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes’ scoring. Also, Norm Nixon’s ability to run the offense helped a talented Lakers squad play at a high level.

The team seemed as though they might make some noise in the postseason but then they fell apart in the first round of the playoffs just as the team was getting used to playing with Magic Johnson.

With the team having faced an early season exit, they made some minor tweaks and acquired Mitch Kupchak and Kurt Rambis to help shore up the rebounding in the offseason; and later acquired former three-time scoring champ Bob McAdoo early in the ensuing 1981-82 regular season.

The franchise made news by signing Magic Johnson to a 25-year $25 million contract that led many to wonder if owner Jerry Buss liked Magic Johnson just a little too much.

The Lakers started out the season by once again being a very talented squad but some around the team felt as though head coach Paul Westhead was holding the team back with his half court offense. They had stopped being Showtime and instead became a team that brought the ball up the court and executed instead of consistently outrunning their opponents.

Magic went on to voice his complaints and requested to be traded, feeling as though his talents weren’t being maximized under Westhead. And just like that, Westhead was fired despite a 7-4 record at the time.

Had Kanye West been the artist back then that he is today, everyone would have said that the lyrics from his hit song Power were tailor made for Magic:

“No one man should have all that power.”

The former Michigan State Spartan was booed in every opposing arena and was viewed as an athlete with a sense of entitlement and a man possessing far too much power with his franchise. In an odd way, this situation somewhat overshadowed just how deep and talented the team was as well as what it accomplished.

The 1981-82 Los Angeles Lakers had four Hall of Fame players (Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, McAdoo and Wilkes) as well as a stud point guard in Norm Nixon — yes, he was listed as the team’s point guard and Magic was listed as a guard/forward — that helped make plays.

The team may have had one of the best guard pairings ever when we look at their production during the 1981-82 regular season:

  • Norm Nixon: 17.6 points per game, 8 assists per game and 1.6 steals per game on 49.3 percent field goal shooting.
  • Magic Johnson: 18.6 points per game, 9.5 assists per game, 9.6 rebounds per game and 2.7 steals per game on 53.7 percent field goal shooting.

As good as the guards were, things became infinitely more difficult for opponents when the frontcourt became involved when arguably the best center in NBA history had two exquisite guards feeding him the ball when the team played in the half court.

And just in case that wasn’t problematic enough, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was surrounded by great scorers in Bob McAdoo (coming off the bench) and Jamaal Wilkes.

With Pat Riley at the helm, the Lakers finished the season with a 57-25 record, tops in the Western Conference. They sported the second best offensive efficiency in the league and the 10th best defensive efficiency.

The Western Conference playoffs were a mere footnote for the Lakers who obliterated the Phoenix Suns (46-36) in the first round by an average scoring margin of 12.7 points in a four-game sweep.

The following series against the San Antonio Spurs (48-34) proved to be quite similar to the outcome against the Suns, as the Lakers swept them and won every game against the Spurs by an average of 8.7 points.

The Los Angeles Lakers entered the NBA Finals — at the time, a team only needed to win two rounds to advance to the finals — as underdogs to the Philadelphia 76ers (58-24) given that they did not have home court advantage.

And yet, as if to come full circle, Magic Johnson led the purple and gold to another title against the same 76ers team that had lost against them two years prior in the title round.

Los Angeles won in six games and kept Julius Erving’s title drought alive for one last season.

The ’82 Lakers boasted an impressive 12-2 playoff record and sported an average scoring margin of plus-6.1 during the postseason. In addition, when we consider the roster top to bottom, there is no doubt that this is one of the greatest teams to ever hit the hardwood.

Why seventh then?

For a team as loaded as the ’82 Lakers, one can only wonder why they only won 57 games especially in a rather weak Western Conference. In addition, they dismantled their conference opponents during the playoffs but both teams fail to even win 50 games during the regular season, thus making the accomplishment a little less impressive.

In addition, this squad may have only had two losses during their postseason run, but they were by 16 and 33 points; meaning they were blown out of the building. Perhaps it’s nitpicking, but as we climb along the ladder of best Los Angeles Lakers teams in franchise history, these small details will add up and end up making the difference.

In case you missed it, the FB&G team voted to rank the 11 Lakers title teams since moving to Los Angeles from worst to first. So far, the countdown has seen us take a look at the 2002 Lakers (11th), the 2009 Lakers (10th) and the 2010 Lakers (ninth). Clocking in at the eighth spot…

The 1999-00 Lakers

Shaquille O’Neal left the Orlando Magic in the summer of 1996 to join a Los Angeles Lakers team that he felt appreciated him more considering his dominance on the basketball court as well as his charismatic personality off it. Granted, it helped that the Lakers were able to offer the Diesel more money than any other team in the league but the big man had his heart set on joining the team after talking it out with then general manager Jerry West.

In that same offseason, the franchise acquired Kobe Bryant via the draft and hoped to pair him up with O’Neal to form a great dynamic duo.

The first few seasons for both players were met with mixed results. Shaq performed up to expectations while Bryant struggled at times to understand his role and fit in within the team structure. But one thing eluded both: team success.

Despite a roster with overwhelming talent, the Lakers always seemed to underachieve in the postseason. And ultimately, the failures were always blamed on two people: the head coach — take your pick between Del Harris and Kurt Rambis — and Shaquille O’Neal.

O’Neal as well as some of his teammates found it extremely difficult to coexist with a young Bryant that seemed to think he knew it all, but with the owner and general manager forcing the head coach to play the young star in the making without him actually earning his playing time, it irked the team’s veterans. The kid was talented, but he was also a lone wolf.

Consequently, some of the Lakers resented Bryant because they felt that he was out for himself as opposed to the team. The only way this could be fixed would be if someone were able to help steer Kobe towards the team and also steer the team towards the future superstar.

And thus, the Lakers hired Phil Jackson with the hope that he would solve it all and get the team to play up to its championship potential.

And boy did he.

The new head coach put in the Triangle Offense and encouraged players to feed their dominant big man but also to find their own rhythm and assert themselves offensively when the situation presented itself for them to do so.

Bryant, to some degree, followed the instructions of his head coach despite the fact that his teammates often failed to recognize this. Nonetheless, the team’s play finally matched its hype and potential.

Jackson was able to get Shaquille O’Neal to play the best basketball of his career and submit his greatest statistical season ever. The Diesel appeared in 79 games and posted figures of 29.7 points per game, 13.6 rebounds per game, 3.8 assists per game and 3 blocks per game on 57.4 percent field goal shooting.

As a result of the big man’s dominance, combined with the coming together of the rest of the roster, the Los Angeles Lakers dominated the regular season. They finished the season with an impressive 67-15 record, sported the fifth best offensive efficiency figure in the league as well as the best defensive efficiency mark in the league and ended the regular season with a plus-8.5 average scoring margin.

Impressive statistics all around and yet, it gets better.

During the 1999-00 season, the Los Angeles Clippers won 15 games, the Chicago Bulls won 17 games and the Golden State Warriors were victorious in 19 contests. During that very same regular season, the Lakers managed three separate double-digit win streaks with two of them rivaling the record of the teams mentioned before.

Indeed, the purple and gold managed a 16-game winning streak from mid-December to mid-January, then went on an impressive run, winning 19 straight games from early February to mid-March. Once their winning streak ended in March with a loss on the road to Washington, Phil Jackson’s team picked things right back up and won another 11 straight.

In terms of regular season output, one could make the argument that the 2000 Lakers could have favorably compared to the 1997 Bulls team (69-13) as well as the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers (68-13).

Mind you, this version of the Lakers only finished eighth in our voting of Lakers title teams since the relocation to Los Angeles.

This was by far Phil Jackson’s best Lakers regular season team, but of all his title teams, it may just be its worst playoff performing unit — Chicago Bulls included– to have won a championship.

The 2000 Lakers struggled in the first round against a young Sacramento Kings team and needed the full five games — the first round at the time was a best of five games series — to advance to the second round where they played a little better and dispatched the Phoenix Suns in five games, which set up one of the greatest Western Conference Finals in NBA history.

The Lakers seemed poised to easily dispatch an extremely talented Portland Trail Blazers team after taking a 3-1 series but then watched a squad led by Scottie Pippen’s championship experience come back and force a Game 7 at Staples Center and take a 13-point lead going into the fourth quarter of the game.

With contributions from their role players, the Lakers bounced back to take the lead and even gave fans the signature moment of the Shaq and Kobe era when Bryant crossed over Pippen late in the game and floated a wonderful alley-oop pass to Shaquille O’Neal that brought the house down and propelled the team to the NBA Finals.

A great comeback performance by the eventual champs, but they managed to actually get outscored in the seven-game series by the Blazers.

The Lakers would advance to the title round and dispatch the Indiana Pacers in six games, with Kobe Bryant showing a great flair for the dramatic as he delivered a fantastic performance in Game 4 with Shaquille O’Neal fouling out in overtime. The young guard went on to score the final eight points on a barrage of long 2-point jumpers and a put back basket that helped the Lakers seize a 3-1 stranglehold on the series, which resulted in them eventually winning the title in Game 6 back in Los Angeles.

The 2000 Lakers finished their playoff run with a 15-8 playoff record; with their eight defeats being the second most postseason losses by a Los Angeles Lakers title team. In addition, Shaq and Kobe’s first championship team sported a plus-2.3 average scoring margin, which happens to be the worst out of any of the Lakers teams that won titles after moving to Los Angeles.

Phil Jackson’s first season with the franchise was a success given the terrific regular season as well as the championship parade that capped off the team’s fantastic season. In addition, Shaq and Kobe provided many memorable moments during the spring of 2000 and those will probably be remembered for a fairly long time given their impact as well as their importance.

With that said though, the team’s playoff struggles invariably led to them taking a fairly substantial hit in their ranking when compared to other title teams.

But still…

Kobe to Shaq…

What a moment.

A few days ago, we unveiled our new project at FB&G, where we ranked the 11 best title teams in franchise history since the team relocated to Los Angeles. After looking at the 11th best team, we resume the countdown by presenting to you the team that clocked in at the 10th spot…

The 2008-09 Lakers

During the spring of 2007, Kobe Bryant famously went on the air with Stephen A. Smith and proclaimed his distaste for the Lakers organization and made the statement that he wished to be traded. The team tried to accommodate his request but given his immense talent as well as his salary, any team trading for the services of Kobe Bean would have to essentially gut their roster to acquire him.

Thus, the superstar guard started the season with the Lakers and performed to his usual standards as the team played well under the tutelage of Phil Jackson.

And then the things became interesting.

The Los Angeles Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in a move that completely shifted the balance of power in the Western Conference. No longer were the Lakers a team contending for the playoffs; instead they had now become a legit championship contender.

The purple and gold finished the season with a 57-25 record and Kobe Bryant earned the 2007-08 MVP award.

Many fans hoped that the league’s most ancient rivalry would be revived with the Lakers and Celtics facing off in the Finals and they got their wish.

The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2008 NBA Finals as favorites to win the crown despite ceding home court advantage to the Boston Celtics. Indeed, the Lakers’ execution of the triangle offense coupled with the crisp interior passing of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol as well as the mere presence of Kobe Bryant was enough for most to think Los Angeles would prevail.

Instead, the team was defeated in six games as fans wondered aloud whether a healthy Andrew Bynum — he sat out the postseason due to injury – would helped have change the outcome. Boston was physical and played tougher than their opponents and thus one of the biggest takeaways from the 2008 championship series was that Pau Gasol and both Lamar Odom had been punked.

Gasol got the lion’s share of the blame and still to this day gets labeled as soft because of those six games against the Celtics.

As bad as the defeat was, former Lakers superstar Shaquille O’Neal made things worse by freestyling a week later at a club about Kobe’s inability to get things done without him.

It was said, the Lakers could not recapture the title without Shaq…

Instead of retooling the roster, Los Angeles stood pat and welcomed back Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum who had both missed the 2008 playoffs due to injury. Ariza gave the team athleticism and solid perimeter defense while Bynum gave the Lakers rebounding, shot blocking and scoring at the rim.

With Phil Jackson still leading the way, the Lakers essentially owned the 2008-09 regular season, going 65-17. The team’s record was impressive, but so was their performance at both ends of the court. Indeed, the 2008-09 Lakers finished the regular season third in offensive efficiency and sixth in defensive efficiency.

A return trip to the NBA Finals seemed almost like a formality.

As the 2009 playoffs started, the Lakers easily dispatched the Utah Jazz in five games and set up a second round matchup against a gritty Houston Rockets team that was playing without an injured Tracy McGrady; who was still a good player at the time.

The teams split the first two games in Los Angeles, and then the Lakers regained home court advantage with a Game 3 victory; and benefitted from a fortuitous turn of events: Yao Ming broke his left foot.

With the Houston Rockets competing without their star center and their third leading scorer (McGrady), many assumed the Lakers would have a cakewalk to the Western Conference Finals; but that was not to be. Instead, the Rockets managed to win two more games and forced a Game 7 back at the Staples Center where the purple and gold prevailed.

The Lakers then dispatched Carmelo Anthony’s Denver Nuggets in six games in the Western Conference Finals despite the Nuggets’ rugged and bruising defenders that essentially pounded on both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

One year after faltering in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers made it back to the championship round and found the Orlando Magic waiting for them.

Kobe Bryant was his spectacular self in the 2009 NBA Finals and played brilliantly. But one player truly in need of redemption was Pau Gasol, given the events that transpired in the previous spring.

Those that questioned the Spaniard’s toughness at the time were forced to eat up their words as the big man played like a stud against the Magic. Indeed, Gasol controlled the paint defensively, guarded Dwight Howard and scored on the block when called upon. By the time the series was over, Pau had averaged 18.6 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game and 1.8 blocks per game on 60 percent field goal shooting in the title round and even unleashed a lethal scowl on Mickael Pietrus for fouling him excessively hard from behind on a dunk.

Between Gasol’s play, Kobe’s scoring, Bynum’s defense, Odom’s passing and the timely shooting of Derek Fisher and Trevor Ariza; the Orlando Magic never really stood a chance, falling in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

This Lakers team proved to be a great champion during their postseason run, sporting a 16-7 record and a plus-7.2 average scoring margin.

In addition, this team will be remembered as perhaps the most important one to Kobe Bryant’s legacy given his ability to finally get over the hump and lead the franchise back to the mountaintop without the help of a certain Hall of Fame center that left Hollywood five years prior.

Mind you, as great as this team was, it gets lost a little in the rich history of the franchise because of their opponents. Through no fault of their own, the Lakers dispatched a host of teams that no one will truly remember and struggled to take out a Houston Rockets team that was missing its two best players for most of the series.

Oddly enough, when looking at health, talent and production from key positions, this might just be the best Lakers team of the Gasol era, but ultimately this team feels like it should have been a little more dominant than it actually was.

Throughout the rich history of the NBA, there have been some great teams, and then there have been some legendary ones. The league saw its first dynasty emerge during the 1950s as the Minneapolis Lakers won four titles in the decade with George Mikan leading the way.

The team then moved to Los Angeles prior to the 1960-61 season and thus began the apparent NBA Finals curse. Indeed, the Lakers were defeated a whopping six times during the 1960s in the Finals, with each defeat reinforcing the idea that the Boston Celtics perpetually owned the Lakers.  Indeed, the Celtics won nine championships during the decade and defeated the Lakers in six of those nine championship appearances.

But the team’s fortunes changed in the 1970s as the team finally managed to capture a title after moving to Los Angeles. Since the relocation, the purple and gold has won 11 NBA titles; with many of those title teams holding a great historical significance to the league.

It begs the question: which Lakers team since the move is the best of all?

Glad you asked. The FB&G staff looked at the 11 titles teams and voted in order to rank these squads. Whether it’s their historical significance, their trampling of opponents or simply erasing the curse by finally conquering the Boston Celtics in the Finals, we managed to put these Lakers teams from worst to first.

And without further ado, the team that clocked in at #11…

The 2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers

In the Shaq and Kobe era, many view this team as the weakest of all the title teams and the voting of the FB&G staff reflected that as well. After winning 67 and 56 games respectively in the previous two seasons and also winning back-to-back titles, it was widely assumed that this team should get back to the Finals and complete the three-peat.

The 2001-02 Lakers boasted the second best offensive efficiency and sixth best defensive efficiency in the league, mind you they flew a little under the radar as the Sacramento Kings (61-21) finished with the best record in the league and the San Antonio Spurs (58-24) finished second in the Western Conference standings.

With that said, the purple and gold still had Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Both players were in phases in their careers where they could assert themselves offensively seemingly on command without necessarily stepping on the toes of each other. In addition, the roles players on the roster had grown comfortable in their tasks and understood the pecking order on the team; but they never shied away from big moments.

Robert Horry provided clutch daggers against the likes of the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the 2002 playoffs, Derek Fisher helped space the floor against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals and Rick Fox gave his teammates some scoring, rebounding, passing and strong defense in the Western Conference Finals against the Sacramento Kings.

This Lakers team was an impressive 15-4 during their postseason run on their way to the title, but many will recall them as somewhat of an underachieving bunch because of their 15-1 playoff record during the 2001 playoffs. In addition, unlike the season prior, the 2002 Lakers were tested and faced elimination.

Phil Jackson’s unit lost Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals in Sacramento and had to win Game 6 back in Los Angeles — which they did — to force an epic Game 7 showdown for the ages back in Sacramento.

The Lakers ended up winning Game 7 on the road in overtime against the Sacramento Kings — three of their four wins in that series were by six points or less — and then went on to sweep the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals as Shaquille O’Neal earned his third straight NBA Finals MVP trophy.

Although the Lakers easily dispatched the Nets in the title round, the accomplishments from previous seasons created expectations that would have been difficult for this team to match despite finishing the season with a title. Indeed, statistically, the 2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers are one of the best championship teams of all time, boasting a regular season scoring margin of plus-7.1 and a playoff scoring margin of plus-3.8 with Shaquille O’Neal leading the way during the playoffs with averages of 28.5 points per game, 12.6 rebounds per game and 2.8 assists per game on 52.9 percent field goal shooting; but in terms of the rich history of the franchise post-relocation, they are the least impressive title team.

The Shaq and Kobe pair will always be one of the greatest dynamic duos the league has ever seen, and the 2001-02 season will be remembered as the final chapter of their championship days together.

The 2002 Lakers might be the “worst” Los Angeles Lakers championship team, but in the grand scheme of things, they still managed a title and completed the ever elusive three-peat.

Lakers fans will tell you, that’s a great way to finish last…

With Steve Nash set to become a member of the Los Angeles Lakers officially on July 11th, let’s ask Prince to bless us with some of his lyrics:

“[…] but tonight we’re going to party like it’s 2003!!”

Avid Prince fans would point out that the year mentioned in the actual song is 1999 and not 2003; but in this case the year 2003 has some historical significance for the Los Angeles Lakers. Indeed, in the summer of ’03, the purple and gold pulled off the seemingly unthinkable when they brought in Karl Malone and Gary Payton via free agency to play with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

Needless to say, that was a blockbuster summer for the Lakers given that they had added two players destined for the Hall of Fame to a team that already featured arguably two of the five best players in the NBA.

The Hall of Fame foursome may have actually prepared us for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 Miami Heat given the incredible amount of attention that it garnered, especially after losses. In addition, the team was under the microscope for most of the season and also faced a lot of media backlash given that Kobe Bryant had been accused of sexual assault and had to occasionally miss team functions or even show up late for games due to mandatory court appearances.

But when that team got on the court, they were a joy to watch.

It took some time for them to get accustomed to playing with each other within the triple-post offense; but once they started to figure things out, they often looked unbeatable.

Their ball movement as well as their interior passing made them tough to defend and put defenses in huge bind given the plethora of options available to the Lakers.

Fast-forward to the present, and it’s almost as if history is repeating itself, with Kobe Bryant finding himself at the center of it all.

The 2012-13 Lakers will probably face the pressure to win it all, much like the previous installment from the 2003-04 season, but bringing Nash on board may actually change the sentiment towards the Lakers in some respects. The franchise has often been viewed as having an unfair advantage because of their ability to pick up star players and thus fans have often wanted to see them fail; but things may be subject to change now that the player that every one apparently wants to see get a ring has joined the purple and gold.

Public sentiment may be fun to sway, but the real kicker will actually come on the hardwood.

In Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the Lakers will have four potential All-Stars — all four have played in at least one All-Star game — sharing the court together. Not one, not two, not three; four!

More importantly, the collective basketball IQ of three of those four athletes — sorry Drew — is high enough that the expectation will be that not only will they figure things out quickly, but they will play basketball with great synergy.

The identity of the team in years past has been to allow Kobe Bryant to figure out when and where to switch from facilitator to scorer, and although his role should be about the same, he will probably be asked to be more of a scorer with Nash on the roster.

Nash will obviously have to adapt to dumping the ball inside the post and then drifting to open areas of the court, but the Lakers will also adjust and probably play a little more pick-and-roll basketball with Nash and Gasol; with Kobe Bryant waiting on the weak side of the court for either an open jump shot, or a pump fake and drive.

Consider that little tidbit, how often do defenses actually rotate off the Black Mamba? And yet, this may in fact become a reality for this new Lakers team.

Notwithstanding injuries, the purple and gold will probably always have two All-Stars that complement each other on the court at the same time, which is probably terrifying news for the rest of the league.

With that said, there are still some minor concerns about this team.

Although yours truly has already previously made the bold statement that Steve Nash is probably the best shooter in the league’s history, the Lakers struggled to connect from 3-point range at key times last season and thus could use a wing player capable of converting shots from deep. It’s still worth noting that Metta World Peace was a decent option towards the end of the season from long-range, but it’s tough to predict whether that will translate into 82 games in 2012-13 as well as possibly another 20 or so playoff games.

In addition, many will state that the Lakers need an influx of athleticism, which wouldn’t hurt but isn’t an absolute necessity. Instead, Mike Brown’s unit might want to take a look at a destructive perimeter defender — Tony Allen anyone — to help the defend the likes of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker as well as wing players.

While many still believe that Oklahoma City is still the team to beat in the West, the Los Angeles Lakers just narrowed the margin. Obviously, there are other moves to be made by the rest of the Western Conference but if the players come together and play well in concert, they may end up celebrating like it’s ­not 2004.

Remember, that team lost in the Finals…

A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum – the Lakers signed Steve Nash. Like many, I was idly sifting through twitter when the first rumblings began. Disbelief turned to giddiness and my 4th of July evening was lost to the internet. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a dramatic spike in articles posted. Darius turned up the magnification on a deal that is most certainly value added. There’s a lot of other great reads on the subject, the list below is only a small sampling:

Brian Kamenetzky at the Land O’Lakers gives us a rundown on other guards that Kobe has been paired with, over the years.

Brian also participated in a 5-on-5 with Ramona Shelburne, J.A. Adande, Zach Harper, and Brian Windhorst.

C.A. Clark at Silver Screen and Roll says the Lakers have gone supernova.

Sekou Smith at NBA.com reports that Pau Gasol wants in on the Nash party.

Kevin Ding at the OC Register writes about the commonality between Nash and Kobe.

Mark Heisler contributes a piece for Hoopshype, about the grandson of Showtime.

Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk writes about Pau Gasol staying put.

Bill Plaschke at the L.A. Times says getting Nash is a steal.

Mark Medina at the Times offers five things to look at with the Nash trade.

Mike Bresnahan at the Times breaks down the deal, and the reasons for Nash’s decision.

Rey-Rey at The No-Look Pass considers how Nash will fit with his new team.

Gabriel Lee at Lakers Nation offers an iPhone upgrade analogy.

Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie looks at the cracks in the Nash schematic.

Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo looks at the next possible step with the Dwight Howard question still looming.

Steve McPherson at Hardwood Paroxysm writes about Kobe and the burden of surrendering control.

***

There comes a point at which the list of links has to end. I’ve been reading and thinking about Steve Nash for the better part of a night and a day. And when I’m not reading words on a page, I’m imagining beautiful basketball patterns on the court. I always wondered how a supremely creative and intuitive player like Nash would have functioned in the triangle as opposed to his natural pick and roll instincts. We’ll never have the answer to that, but we will get to see two of the all-time greats in an extended swan song jam.

– Dave Murphy

After Magic Johnson’s retirement and the end of Showtime, the Lakers were a team in transition. They’d yet to find another franchise icon and instead put together a team of carryovers, journeymen, and youngsters. Guys like Vlade, Sedale, George Lynch, Elden Campbell, Van Exel, and Eddie Jones. What transpired was the “LakeShow” era of Los Angeles basketball that may not have won any championships but sure were fun to watch.

One of the reasons they were fun was because of Eddie Jones. Watching him run the floor and finish above the rim was like an extension those Showtime teams. Jones attacked the rim with reckless abandon and didn’t care if it was a guard or a big man under the hoop to challenge the shot – he was going to try and finish over him. This style produced countless highlight plays and had me jumping out of my seat countless times at home.

Of course, within a few years of Eddie being drafted the seeds for a new era were planted. Shaq came as a free agent, Kobe was traded for on draft day, and the expectations for the team started to change. But I’ll never forget Jones streaking down the floor and throwing it down over any and everyone. And, thanks to the beauty of the internet we can all remember it today too. Enjoy, Eddie Jones DUNKS!:

Every Memorial Day my thoughts drift back to the 1985 Finals. The Lakers were playing the hated Celtics, trying to defeat them for the first time of what would become the Showtime Era. The previous year the Lakers had been defeated in 7 games by those same Celtics, a series that spawned the nickname Tragic Johnson due to late game gaffes that directly led to losses.

The series didn’t start out well with the Lakers losing game one badly by the score 148-114. The game was dubbed the Memorial Day Massacre and there were serious questions if the Lakers had the mettle to beat the Celtics in the Finals. After the game, Pat Riley said “We’ll be back. If a seven game series could be decided in one game, it’d be over with but there’s going to be six more basketball games.”

There actually wouldn’t be six more games, however. The Lakers would come back to win the series in 6 games behind stellar performances from Kareem and Magic. I’ll never forget Kareem defiantly raising his arms in celebration after he hit a sky hook in the game 6 clincher in the Boston Garden. Not only did the Lakers win, but they did so on the Celtics home floor. That game represented a come back that helped catapult the Lakers to two more championships that decade, including another win over the hated Celtics. That game was a turning point of sorts for the Lakers as a team and solidified their approach as a franchise.

Today, the Lakers look to make a different type of comeback. There’s not a championship to win this season as the Lakers have already been defeated in the conference semi-finals. It’s the 2nd straight year they’ve failed to advance to the conference championship round and, with those early exits, the Lakers face the prospect of having to find a way to get back to championship level form. In a way, the situation they face to day is analogous to what they faced after that game 1 humiliation. After that game, there were serious doubts about the Lakers. Could they win with that group? Could they get past their rivals?

This, of course, will not be easy. There are tough choices to make and we don’t yet know how the organization will move forward. Unlike that 1985 season there isn’t a stock pile of talent to lean on and ultimately trust. The Lakers have some top talent but lack the depth of that team. But like that 1985 season, the Lakers must show commitment and resolve and find a way to come back.

No one knows this better than Mitch Kupchak who was on that 1985 team. He’d made his own comeback of sorts, finding a way to contribute after a knee injury changed the landscape of his playing career forever. Now he must call on some of that experience to find a way to make it work as an executive. Again, no easy task but if there’s a person that knows what it takes it’s him.