August 10, 2012 the headline read ” lakers acquire Dwight Howard in four team trade.” Los Angeles roared when this news broke, as a matter of fact lakers fans everywhere in the world roared when this news broke. It came only eight months after an attempt to trade for Chris Paul was nixed by the comissioner David Stern on December 8, 2011. Therefore the Lakers new starting lineup looked thus; Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta Word Peace. Anyone who knew anything about sports would take one look at this roster and immediately place them in the finals against the Miami Heat. No one thought the Lakers would go 17-25 in their first 42 games. After all we’ve won championships with Derek Fisher and Andrew Bynum now we have Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Let’s take a closer look at these players; Dwight Howard was drafted with the overall first pick in 2004 by the Orlando Magic. He is a seven-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA team selection, five-time All-Defensive member, and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard has been ranked consistently as one of the best in the league in rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage and free throw attempts, and has set numerous franchise and league records. He led the Magic to three division titles and one conference title, and he was the winner of the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. In the 2008 Olympics, he was also the starting center for Team USA, which went on to win the gold medal. Steve Nash was drafted with the 15th pick in the 1996 NBA draft by Phoenix and was traded to Dallas two years later. Nash earned his first All Start selection in his third season with the Mavericks and made his first All NBA team that year. Of course in the 03-04 season Nash returned to Phoenix.
In the 2004–05 season, Nash led the Suns to the Western Conference Finals, and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). He was named MVP again in the 2005–06 season, and missed out on a third consecutive MVP title to Nowitzki in 2006–07. Named by ESPN in 2006 as the ninth greatest point guard of all time, Nash has led the league in assists and free-throw percentage at various points in his career. He is also ranked as one of the top players in NBA league history for three-point shooting, free-throw shooting, total assists and assists per game. He is also 4th on the all time assists list ahead of Magic Johnson. So here are the two new additions to the Lakers team that already had Kobe Bryant and Paul Gasol. Their records should be better right? So it makes one scratch their heads and wonder what’s going on and will the Lakers even make the playoffs?
I want to go on record of saying I believe that the Lakers will make the playoffs and when they get there no one should want to face them. I’m not saying this because I’m a fan but I am being objective. As fans I know what we are used to; we are used to those 16 championship banners hanging in the staples center. We are used to seeing the “lake show” perform with passion and love for the game with a deeply rooted tradition in winning. So when Jalen Rose says that the Lakers have a 31% chance of making the playoffs, it sounds difficult but not impossible, not for this team, not for this roster and not for this organization.
One of the reason I love sports and I believe this is true for a lot of people is that it offers inspiration. There’s always a storyline, week in week out, day in day out and this makes people want to watch more. They want to see if this storyline will hold up to be true or will it break apart? It’s all about inspiration and the underdog. I’m sure you can recall “Miracle on Ice,” a story of the American hockey team at the 1980 Olympics. There was inspiration there and till this day people who were present still treasure the experience. There’s also the story of the 1995 Houston Rockets who, after winning the championship the year before found themselves going into the playoffs as the 6th seed. That year they became the only 6th or higher seed in NBA history to win a championship and while accomplishing that they also became the only team in NBA history to defeat the teams with the 4 best regular season records in the playoffs. It was on the summit of that championship in 95 that their coach Rudy Tomjanovich declared and cautioned that you don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.
The Lakers have found themselves set up to write a page of history that has hardly been seen in sports. 17-25 in their first 42 games and have gone 11-4 since then. If anyone can do it, it’s Kobe, Dwight and Steve right? I believe they can make the playoffs but many experts disagree and the reason for that is that the numbers just don’t lie. If I’ve learned anything from sports it’s that the numbers may not lie but sometimes they don’t tell the whole story. They may not lie but they can change and tell a whole different ending. We understand that Utah (31-25) is currently in the 7th spot, Houston (31-29) is in the 8th spot and the Lakers (28-29) is in the 9th spot. Unfortunately only 8 spots are available so one of these teams will not make the playoffs. The experts will tell you that the Lakers have the toughest schedule of the three over the next five game. I will list them as follows.
3. ATL 31-23
4. @OKC 41-15
1. MIL 26-28
3. DAL 25-30
1. BOS 29-27
2. ATL 31-23
3. CHA 13-43
5. @ CLE 18-38
Here’s what the experts are looking at. With almost everyone in the sports world declaring that the Lakers may have turned the corner, the next 5 games will be key. The combined record for the Lakers’ next five opponents is 147-130 while Houston’s opponents is 124-152 and Utah’s is117-159. Also the Lakers will face in that stretch two playoff teams with outstanding home records. @Den (23-3) at home and @OKC (24-4) at home. So considering two of the best home records in the NBA, and the Lakers having a (10-18) road record none of the experts are giving either of these games to the Lakers. If Kobe Bryant and company really want to gain ground on Utah or Houston, they have to win one of these games. Now Denver is 26th in points allowed while OKC is 15th. The bright side is that two of the teams Denver lost to was Washington and Minnesota who has a combined record of (37-70). The Lakers on a three game winning streak has an opportunity to win this game and inch closer to that final playoff spot. So the experts are looking at remaining schedules and also at inconsistency and the Lakers have been inconsistent all season so much that many are reluctant to admit that maybe they have turned the corner. Tonight will be a big test.
I’ve given you what the experts are looking at in reference to scheduling to see which team out of LA, HOU and UTAH will make the playoffs. The argument looks compelling and being a die hard fan, my heart says yes and numbers say no. I keep hearing 31% and knowing that those aren’t good odds, but I’ve learned to go with my heart when it comes to Kobe Bryant and what he’s capable of doing. Here are my reasons why the Lakers not only make the playoffs but they’ll make noise when they get there. I’d like to cite something I call the “Tiger Woods effect.” I believe most people know what I mean when I say this. People who’ve covered and have played with Tiger Woods will tell you that one of his greatest strength is intimidation. Tiger Woods won his third U.S. Open championship and 14th major title by beating Rocco Mediate on the first hole of sudden-death playoff following an 18-hole playoff. Rocco basically fell apart at the end of the event giving the win to Woods, a wounded Tiger Woods at that. Right now Utah and Houston is hearing the chatter, they know the Lakers could have very well turned the corner and is coming for a playoff spot and someone is going to get tripped up. The experts have the numbers but the Lakers are playing inspired basketball brought on by the death of Dr. Jerry Buss. Kobe vowed that the rest of this season will be dedicated to the Lakers late owner. This is bigger than ego, bigger than stats and bigger than self. The Lakers are playing for something bigger than their own personal agendas. I believe that they finally got it, that if you play for each other, you will play well and compliment each other. The look I saw in Kobe’s eyes last night tells me that he has simply elevated himself to another level and he’s slowly bringing Nash and Howard along with him. Keep in mind that the Lakers did start 17-25 but have gone 11-4 in their last 15. Forget about a month ago, forget about the self-affirmed new season that coach Dantoni mentioned. Just think about the inspiration of Dr. Buss’ death, the will power and determination of Kobe Bryant, the savvy playmaking abilities of Steve Nash, the dominance of Dwight Howard, the hustle of Earl Clark and Metta’s left hand. Now roll that all together and tell me that this team does not have what it takes to makes the playoffs and make noise in the playoffs. Last night Kobe told reporters that he was grumpy and mad, this is a Kobe you simply can’t bet against. This team has a purpose and an identity and I don’t believe it’s too late. The Lakers have an opportunity to inspire the world, to show people that you never underestimate the heart of a champion, someone who knows how to win. The experts says no, the haters say no, but as a devout Laker fan and after showing you the numbers I believe yes, we can make the playoffs. I guess the rest of you will have to just wait and see while true lakers fans go along for the ride.