OPINION: Pushy Los Angeles has done it again.
Just when Miami and Oklahoma looked to have begun what looked likely to become a long-running duel for dominance in basketball, the Lakers have ensured their relevance again with another great off-season.
The new NBA season tips off in less than two weeks and it will be a reanimated Lakers side that takes the court with the addition of two certain Hall of Famers to a lineup that looked to be in decline last season.
It must be a joy to be a Lakers fan with the way they reinvent themselves , grabbing the best free agents to ensure they're in title contention.
This off-season they hit the jackpot grabbing not one, but two of the best. Many teams can't even hold onto one star and now LA have four.
In the estimation of some basketball experts, Dwight Howard is the second-best player in the league and Steve Nash is a former MVP and still one of the game's best passers.
Add those two to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace and you have a starting lineup that can foot it with anybody, including the Heat and OKC.
Of course, you can't just create a super team and expect them to gel immediately (just ask Miami) but the Lakers have all the pieces and they look to be a good fit.
Howard is among the league's premier defenders and will help them to both protect and attack the rim while Nash ensures Bryant gets better looks than he's enjoyed in years.
Their opponents will have to choose their poison on defence - either double team Bryant (as many do now) and let Nash, Gasol or Howard score, or put just a single defender on him and watch Bryant score.
For Bryant this will be his best chance to add to his five titles. But it remains to be seen whether he can adjust his game to having so many other capable scorers alongside him.
His entire career he has enjoyed taking difficult, low percentage shots rather than pass it to an open team-mate. For his team to profit from their acquisitions he will need to change that.
He is also what is termed a ball-stopper and that will not fit with the game of Nash, perhaps one of the greatest floor generals of the past decade (and certainly the greatest ever Canadian).
Teamwork hasn't always featured in Bryant's game. He and Shaq could have created a dynasty but didn't get along.
One of Bryant's former team-mates at the Lakers has just labelled him a great player but a terrible team-mate. Smush Parker, who like Nash played point guard, said Bryant even told him he wasn't allowed to talk to him until he'd proven himself in the NBA.
He also told of how Bryant ate alone with his bodyguards at a team bonding dinner. Not exactly the behaviour of a model team-mate.
Maybe the allure of a sixth title will be enough for Bryant to change his spots.
That is what Nash must be counting on if he is to put the seal on his career with a championship ring. Otherwise the 38-year-old will be one of the greats, like Charles Barkley, who never got it done.
Miami still go into the season as favourites to repeat last season's championship.
But now the Lakers have a shooter's chance.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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