Sunday, 22 August 2010


Three reasons why the Lakers WILL three-peat.

By Tim David Harvey

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (L) has words with teammate Ron Artest in the first half during Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference finals in Phoenix, Arizona May 29, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Defence wins championships. Sure it's a boring notion but it's an accurate one as well. That's why the Boston Celtics have so many banners. That's why Ron Artest won Game 7 in this years NBA Finals and that's why Bill Russell is the real lord of the rings.

The Lakers are currently back to back champions. Historically they are known for their 'Showtime' offence and Kobe Bryant is one of the associations greatest ever players and offensive threats, but the Lakers are much more than prolific scorers. In defending their repeat championships LA will need to step up their defensive play once again.

You can't spell 'dominance' without a 'd' first and foremost. The Lakers have become a great defensive team and have learned from their 2008 Finals loss to Boston and their 2004 heartbreak in Detroit. They have learned that you can score on someone all you like, but if you can't stop them, it's over.

Now the Lake Show is stocked full of great stoppers. Gasol, Bynum and Odom are all good defenders in the post and as for the backcourts ability you can charge that to their warrior Derek Fisher. The Lakers bench may often be overlooked in favour for the Hollywood elite that sits behind them but these players certainly can take offence too.

Mar. 02, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, United States - epa02062958 Indiana Pacers Danny Granger (C) almost has the ball stolen by Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (L) as Ron Artest (R) defends during the first period of their NBA basketball match in Los Angeles, California, USA, 02 March 2010.

To win big games though you need difference makers. The Lakers have that on both ends of the floor but when it comes to defence the Lakers now have a three pronged attack that can lock down even the best in the league. Why do they have this? They have this because they've got three of the best perimeter defenders in the league, one of the first lines of defence in Basketball. They've got newly acquired free agent Matt Barnes. They got former Defensive Player of the Year Ron Artest and they've got Kobe Byant, a Basketball legend on both ends of the floor.

So when you've got three of your best defenders in the L guarding your best player (or best two players for that matter), you've got trouble. The Lakers could play two of these guys at a time, with one guy tagging in off the bench or all three at once. Either way it's about to become real hard for any team to match up with the Lakers. No matter who you are. Even if you think you've got the luck of the Boston Irish. Even if your names LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. Any dream team will suffer a nightmare playing this three headed monster. No player wants to screw with this ménage a trois.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant points to teammate Ron Artest in the first quarter against the Phoenix Suns during Game 2 of their NBA Western Conference final playoff series in Los Angeles, May 19, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

It all begins with Kobe. The franchise player, the' go to guy'. He makes all the big plays, not every time (We see you Pau, Lamar, Derek and Ron) but 9 times out of ten. The clutch shots may be remembered and rotated on youtube for decades but his key steals and blocks ice games just as well. See Kobe suffers from the same thing all star players do. People focus on all the exciting things too much that the intangibles get overlooked. Lets take Basketball back to the basics. Kobe is a 'guard' after all, even if he is a 'shooting guard'.

Kobe may have made the NBA All-Defensive team year after year but his work on the 'other' end of the floor is still very much underrated. Put it this way, who do people talk about more, the Defensive Player of the year or the league MVP? Sure highlights are highlights but the 'little' things that are done and that don't show up on the stat sheet are just as important. As a matter of fact these aren't 'little' things anyway. Everything in Basketball is a big thing and the difference between achieving the 'W' or being left games behind.

Kobe doesn't just go at the opposing teams best player, he guards them too. Bryant has good wingspan, he's strong, he holds his own and most importantly, he's fearless. Kobe is so competitive and has a killer instinct that is matched by nobody in this league...nobody. Number 24 doesn't just want to beat you...he want's to stop you too.

A Black Mamba can kill you in more ways than one and the self dubbed 'Doberman' of the Beijing Olympics doesn't bark, he bites. Just like when he won a gold medal Bryant showed that he is just as dedicated to hounding someone on defence as he is at being chased on offence. Not only do the Lakers have one of the best all-round players guarding their house, they've also let two more hungry dogs off the leash.

May 19, 2010 - Los Angeles County, California, U.S. - Los Angeles Lakers' Ron Artest points to Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant after making a 3 point shot to finish the 1st quarter in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19th, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

The Lakers may have lost some 'Showtime', when they gave up Trevor Ariza in the free agent period of 2009 but they picked up a real 'show stopper' when they acquired Ron Artest back off Houston. Ariza was a big reason the Lakers won in 2009 but Artest was an even bigger reason why the Lakers repeated in 2010. Sure when the Lakers lost Ariza's athleticism they lost a lot of speed but having Ron Artest slow things down on defence isn't exactly a bad thing. See a player who can see the game developing in a much slower way can master the court and therefore the game itself. A player like this see's plays before they happen. A player like this wins championships and becomes legendary. A player like this see's the game like Magic Johnson. This is no trick, great minds think alike and great players move in time.

Now Ron, Ron may not move with the quickness but what Artest doesn't have in speed he makes up for 100 times over in strength. He may not look like he could run track but he's built like he could play football. Imagine trying to get round a pick set by this guy. Or imagine exhaustedly managing to elude Kobe after being chased around the court only to be hit and bounced by Artest. Now even the strong body of LeBron James couldn't put up with much of this punishment. Any team in this league can throw anything they want at the Lakers because they have the players to counter. When the Lakers picked up Pau Gasol in 2008 Kobe remarked that he wasn't going to war with 'butter knives' anymore, well now he and his Lakers aren't lying in trenches either. Their standing in a fort.

Jan. 18, 2010 - LOS ANGELES, California, United States - Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (24) shakes hands with Ron Artest,right, before a basketball game against the Orlando Magic at the Staples Center on Monday, January 18, 2010 in Los Angeles.

Surely one controversial but tenacious defensive player is enough for the Lakers though right? Well Mitch Kupchak didn't seem to think so this Summer adding Matt Barnes to this emphatic mix. Sure these guys are volatile but the difference is their controlled by the Zen of Phil Jackson. There's nothing more potent or powerful than controlled aggression. These guys are much more than assistant coach slapping, hair dying eccentric brawlers. Their true competitors.

Barnes is quick like Kobe and wild like Ron. His passion, heart and dedication matches his two new team-mates to a tee and he is not only one of the most underrated defenders in the league, he's also one of the most undervalued players. As a matter of fact the acquisition of Matt Barnes may have been one of the most important free agent signings this summer. Sure this signing didn't come after a one hour television spot or with a rock star like entrance on stage but remember it's the little things.

Jul 27, 2010 - El Segundo, CA, USA - Los Angeles Lakers General Manager MITCH KUPCHAK (R) introduces the latest addition to the team MATT BARNES  at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.

Let's take nothing away from this brilliant new Miami team but with the pick up of Barnes, the Lakers can match them, outlast them and even challenge and defeat them. Think about it they match up piece for piece. Chris Bosh has Bynum, Gasol and Odom to deal with in the post while Kobe and LeBron will face off. This leaves Dwyane Wade, not open but closed off by both Barnes and Artest. Checkmate.

With all three defenders on the court at the same time the Lakers become the most powerful offensive and the most powerful defensive team in the league. Then, even when Kobe takes five (or more like two) on the bench, the Lakers still have two of the best players in the league disarming the opposing teams primary weapon. When Kobe is back on the court during crunch time he can focus more on the offence when he knows his first and second line of defence has his back.

The reason these guys excel in the lost art of defence is attributed to much more than 'just' their strength, their positioning or their undeniable, proven talent. The reason these guys are three of the top ten defenders in the league is because they share the same three attributes that every player needs to become a premier defender in this league. These attributes are courage, passion and competitiveness. Bryant, Artest and Barnes have the die hard bravery to risk anything and everything to win and they have the passion that goes beyond the 'I Love This Game' slogan. This is because they want to win and rule this game that they love. It's one thing loving something, it's another thing to actually 'want' the thing you love. Now as far as competitiveness is concerned we needn’t get into it...but we will.

Houston Rocket Ron Artest swings Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant's arm during Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinals at Staples Center in Los Angeles on May 17, 2009. The Lakers defeated the Rockets 89-70 to win the best-of-seven series 3-2. (UPI Photo/Jon SooHoo) Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

How competitive are these guys? Well look at it this way these guys may be team-mates now but before as opponents, there was no love lost. These guys where far from friends. We remember Ron in Kobe's face all series long as Houston and LA sparred in the 2009 Playoffs. Also how can we forget Barnes and Bryant getting into it last season during a Magic, Lakers game? Things got so heated that Barnes even faked throwing an inbounds pass right at Kobe's face! Bryant even one-upped Barnes however by not even flinching at this. Kobe just stared right through the ball and right through Matt owning the moment. Chris Rock knows this kind of humiliation.

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (R) drives by Phoenix Suns' Matt Barnes during second half action at Staples Center in Los Angeles on December 10, 2008. The Lakers defeated the Suns 115-110. (UPI Photo/Jon SooHoo) Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

Kobe is without a doubt the most competitive player in this league. When Barnes and Artest showed they weren't fazed by this legend they earned more than just Kobe's frustration and attention. They earned his respect. It's almost like it was all written, just like KB was testing these two guys, but the fact is Kobe plays like this against everyone. The thing that separates Artest and Barnes from the rest was their willingness to see Kobe's competitiveness and up the ante. Now as team-mates what separates these two from the rest is their willingness to put this old rivalry aside in order to come together with the same passion for the same goal. That's what separates a Ron Artest and a Matt Barnes from a Raja Bell. This is what separates ordinary players from champions.

June 17, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02208459 Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (R) hugs teammate Ron Artest after defeating the Boston Celtics during game seven of the NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, 17 June 2010. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 83-79 to win their 16th championships.

With three of the most competitive, passionate and aggressive players on the same page defensively the Lakers become as strong as any defensive minded team they've tried to overcome over the last ten years. Adding this element to an already championship calibre team gives the Lakers that extra dimension, that Championship x-factor. Los Angeles now on both ends of the floor has a team like no other. A team that is both dominant in the paint and on the perimeter. They may not have a 'Dream' team like in Miami but what they do have is a dynasty. Now that's real.

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