Some things in life are reasonably unfair. Others, like the Los Angeles Lakers re-signing Lamar Odom to a four-year, $33-million deal, are just cruel.
Even before Odom’s highly-anticipated decision to return to Los Angeles, the Lakers appeared as the favorite to emerge from the Western Conference following their acquisition of Ron Artest – seemingly an upgrade from the Houston-bound Trevor Ariza. Now, with last season’s sixth man back in purple and gold, the defending champions are overwhelmingly improved, like Wolverine after he was injected with the nearly indestructible metal adamantium in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Via a lethal combination of depth, versatility, youth and experience, the Lakers will create mismatch problems for their opponents more often than Tony Romo makes news during the NFL offseason for non-football related reasons.
Offensively speaking, the Lakers – who were third in scoring last season – will employ two different styles that are sure to keep opposing defenses on their toes. The starting lineup will typically run the highly-effective triangle offense, with the luxury of using any four (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and now Artest) of the five guys as the focal point in the low post. Gasol and Bynum will most likely be the first and second options, freeing up any of the three guards to spot up for an open jump shot if the defense decides to double down or otherwise penetrate the lane for an easy deuce.
Then there’s the bench mob, a blend of young talent that will push the petal to the metal faster than you can chant ‘de-fense’. Once a team thinks it has found an answer to the triangle offense (keyword: thinks), Phil Jackson will interject his youngsters (Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton and/or Odom) into the lineup and teams will suddenly wonder if they’re at the Santa Anita Race Track instead of Staples Center. Whether the Lakers decide to settle for their half-court offense or up the tempo, opponents are bound to be left more puzzled than a cheetah in ice skates.
While the offense will be as explosive as it’s been in recent memory, the defensive end is where the vast majority of improvement will be displayed. On the perimeter, the Lakers will feature three lockdown defenders (Bryant, Artest and Brown), not to mention the aging-but-still-feisty Derek Fisher and up-and-coming Farmar, who showed signs of defensive prowess against the Rockets’ Aaron Brooks throughout the second round of last year’s postseason. If that’s not frightening enough, the Lakers’ low-post defense is as staggering as you’ll find across the league. With the likes of Bynum (seven feet), Gasol (seven feet) and Odom (six feet, 10 inches) patrolling the paint, the Lakers are sure to dominate points in the paint, rebounding and blocked shots, all of which equate to more possessions and points (and fewer of each for the opposing team).
Should the Lakers remain healthy throughout the course of the season and on into the playoffs, it may be somewhat of a joke for any team to even fathom contending with them. Speaking of jokes, the great comedian George Karlin once said: “The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends.” Fortunately for Lakerland, this is only the beginning.
About the Author
Written by Josh Hoffman