The pieces fell into place for Lakers
They have talent. They have veteran leadership and youthful energy. They have the No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 player in the NBA, depending on your taste on any given night, and the one whom most coaches and rivals would choose, time running out, game on the line, as their "closer.'' Their coach is the tactician for whom the league's elite players say they'd most like to play and a man who has a record 10 championships on the bench.
By beating Orlando in the NBA Finals, the Lakers snagged their fourth title in a decade that began in 2000 with the first of three in a row. No other team can match that, Exhibit Z in a compelling case that they are, and have been, exceptionally good. Another case can be made, though, that this year's edition of the Lakers was remarkably fortunate. As in, if it's better to be lucky than good, the Lakers showed that it's best to be lucky
This is offered without malice or snark, with nary a suggestion that
The Lakers got lucky with:
Two years ago,
Incidentally, the Jazz didn't just lose Fisher; they lost
Three weeks before the trading deadline in February 2008, Wallace served up the Grizzlies' skilled 7-footer for a parcel of players and picks that was roundly criticized as insufficient for a contributor of the Spaniard's ilk and expected impact on the Western Conference heavyweights. Gasol immediately boosted the Lakers, filling in last season for injured center
By all rights, Ariza should still be playing in New York -- the Knicks' misguided 2006 trade for
The Houston center broke a bone in his left foot, ending his postseason, in Game 3 of the conference semifinals against the Lakers last month. The Rockets managed to push L.A. to seven games, presumably fueled by equal parts Houston adrenaline and Lakers casualness. But I'd have liked the fifth seed's chances better with Yao than without him against the then-inconsistent No. 1.
There are lots of people, not all of them from Boston, who believe the Celtics could have repeated as East and NBA champions if not for the injuries that cut short Garnett's and
Nelson wasn't expected to return from right shoulder surgery until training camp, which means he wouldn't have been available to mess up Orlando's chemistry (as in Alston's confidence) and pecking order just two days before his team's most important moment. It is not Nelson's fault, but coach
Two summers ago, the Lakers' inscrutable GM was under fire after Bryant vented his frustration with the team and front office on sports-talk radio and in an amateur video. The Lakers' superstar was making noise about getting out, or at least getting more immediate help than young center Bynum could give. Kupchak somehow weathered Bryant's big wind, added Fisher that offseason and Ariza and Gasol during the 2007-08 season, and stayed the course on Bynum. That was good enough for a Finals appearance in 2008 and a championship this season.
By the way, Kupchak's doing it without Shaq now, too.