2.04.2008

Health, Chemistry, Execution, and Defense

A couple of amazing things happened in the sports world over the last three days.

The Lakers acquired Pao Gasol for .02 on the dollar (in fact, one could argue what the Grizzlies received in exchange actually improved the Lakers' roster in which case I'm not sure how to calculate the value of what the purple gave up) and the New York Giants stunned the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Oddly enough, the two events are connected to the fate of the 2008 Boston Celtics (then again, isn’t everything?).

The Gasol acquisition makes the Lakers top dog in the West, even if Bynum doesn’t return this year. If Bynum returns, the Ls will look that much more impressive on paper.

On Paper.

Kind of like the New England Patriots.

Heading into the Super Bowl the prevalent thought was that the 18-0 Patriots would make short work of the Giants on their way to immortality. Didn’t work out that way. All the great games played by the Patriots earlier in the year were flushed down the toilet in the wink of an eye.

I seem to recall the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers being anointed Best Team on Earth and Best Team Ever after they acquired Mailman and Da Glove and before either of them had so much as even dribbled a basketball in a purple uniform. Then came injuries to Mailman and Shak, Kobe’s sexual assault trial, Payton attitude problems, and differences of opinion between Jerry Buss and Phil Jackson.

The Lakers got close to winning it all, but again didn’t get over the hump.

So before you get too worried about the new look Lakers, let’s keep in mind what pundits were saying about Gasol before the trade was made.

He’s soft. He doesn’t play defense. He’s a good rebounder, but not really a force at either end of the court. He didn't prevent the Grizz from winning a grand total of 13 games last year.

Also keep in mind how the Lakers did before and after they played the Celtics two times this year: They destroyed the competition.

How’d the purple do against the green?

Not so well.

My point here is that games are won and lost on the field, and the principle factors in determining championships are health, chemistry, execution, and defense, at least when the on-field talent is roughly equal.

If KG goes down for the year, the Cs don’t have a chance. Ditto if Pierce goes down for the year. Now if the Cs pick up where they left off in December once KG gets back, and the Ray Allen of old starts making regular appearances on the parquet, there is no reason why the Cs can’t handle the Lakers the same way in June as they did two time earlier this season, as long as they execute and defend in a similar fashion.

If the Lakers don’t stay healthy, don’t play with chemistry, and don’t defend or execute, they very well could find themselves on the outside looking in at a Finals featuring some other Western Conference team.

So let's all settle down and see what transpires over the stretch run.

Who knows, maybe even Danny Ainge has a few tricks left up his sleeve.

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