Party Of Five.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
To begin last seasons lockout shortened campaign the Lakers one minute had Chris Paul and the best backcourt this league might have ever seen. Then in less time then it takes to send a Tweet wrote 'WoW' the Lakers deluxe deal was nixed by David Stern which then resulted in CP3 ending up in the STAPLES Centre of Los Angeles but for the wrong team. If that wasn't bad enough a disgruntled Lamar Odom took his most consistent 'Sixth Man' play and his hurt feelings away from L.A., only to return this offseason-like everyone-expected but again for the wrong STAPLES side. With two of the Lakers one-time potential big pieces fitting in Clipperland the Lakers looked to rebound like no other after a disastrous last season (that goes without saying) that saw a second round exit to Western Conference champions the Oklahoma City Thunder and their old playoff friend Derek Fisher.
If you thought the signing of Canadian, Point Guard legend Steve Nash from the Suns was a great way for this Phoenix to rise from the Chris Paul 'what could have been' ashes, then this team really bounced back when they acquired the leagues greatest rebounder and centre of attention Dwight Howard in a trade with Andrew Bynum. What's more and better they still got to keep Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace as they picked up many more great pieces like Antwan Jamison, Chris Duhon and Jodie Meeks. And of course there's that guy named Kobe too. There may be Heat in Miami but the sun looks to shine in California next June too with signs of reign. So as training camp is officially open for business let's take an in-depth look at the Lakers starting five and their new Sixth Man for good measure.
POINT GUARD-STEVE NASH
With all due respect to the Harper's, Nick Van Exel, the clutch legend of Derek Fisher and the recent hard work of Ramon Sessions (good luck in Cleveland, thank you) the Point Guard position in L.A. hasn't looked this magical since Earvin Johnson was lobbing to Kareem. Now with number 10 and 12 the Lakers are a few notches away from having this generations 32 and 33. Steve Nash may be 38 but there's still some maple syrup in those old legs and he pushes 40 with multiple MVP's and countless perfect passes to go along with an underrated shot and a heralded toughness (see the Robert Horry shot) that makes him one of the all-round greatest Point Guards of all-time. Now with the first move that takes these redux Lakers forward, Nash leads the way for this great new team. The Manning's couldn't even field a better Basketball quarterback.
SHOOTING GUARD-KOBE BRYANT
It doesn't matter if the Lakers sign two future Hall of Famers in one offseason (see Payton, Gary and Malone, Karl) it all begins and ends with Kobe Bryant. From Shaquille O'Neal to Dwight Howard by way of Andrew Bynum we all know who the real Superman is. This man of steel has been though it all. The critics wrote him off but he inscribed another classic chapter to his Laker legacy. ESPN ranked him as the seventh best player in the league last year, but Kobe gave a number one season. They said he had no clutch but in the last seconds when it all comes to it only a Horry, a Miller or a Bird has his killer-instinct. Just like Michael Jordan there is no one like him. That's how close he is. You can't stop him. Even Dwyane Wade broke his nose in the February love of the supposedly friendly All-Star game. Even that did no good as Kobe strapped on the Rip Hamilton face-mask and took his revenge out on the league, killing opponents like the phantom menace. In the war of stars only the greatest legend wins and now with a new legacy ahead of him the empire looks to strike back.
SMALL FORWARD-METTA WORLD PEACE
Ron Artest changed his name to World Peace to begin last season and then ended it by elbowing James Harden during the war of the Thunder. Still let's not throw 'bow's at the most eccentric and greatest jersey sporter since World B. Free. For better or worse Metta makes statements and as a worked out Twitter pic can attest, the artist formerly known as Artest knows how to make a comeback, just look at the shots he took which gave the Lakers their last championship. When it comes to the basketball court this successful rapper knows how to hit. Besides no matter the change or old Ron, Ron habits, Metta World Peace will always remain one of the greatest defensive players in the NBA and that is an extra element that LeBron James and the rest of the league will find hard to handle.
POWER FORWARD-PAU GASOL
It's time to show those soft labels a hard place. If anyone doubts Pau Gasol then they should take a look at the sweat soaked, down but not out Spanish star sitting silently sideline-like a dejected Patrick Ewing in the Knick killer nighties-as the nation he carried lost the Gold Medal to the United States in London for this years Olympic Games. As Kobe led the commiseration condolences as Team USA congratulated Pau's heart you could see the soul of the man bared as he left it all out on the floor. Now the man that survived the Chris Paul nixing and the Dwight Howard trade is here to stay and show that he is still very much a part of the Lakers. Besides Gasol is the last Mitch Kupchak deal that gave the Lakers not one, but two championships. The Lakers have never had a guy like one of the greatest European players of all-time. This man's post skills will take them beyond the postseason. Focus on Dwight now, but Pau is the one with the championships before. Now they both look to shine hereafter.
This is the big one. Straight from the Magic Kingdom this former Orlando, Disneyland star looks to bring his famous smile to the throne Magic Johnson's pearly whites once held. Following in the big footsteps of George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal superman returns as the Los Angeles Laker times writes one hell of a rebound story. With a heaven sent move the latest Laker big-man God looks to make his legend out of the legacy Andrew Bynum was making once he gets back from his back injury. Dwight Howard looks to start a block party and championship parade in downtown L.A. Now dunking and duking it out with Bryant instead of getting dunked on Dwight gives the Lakers it's best duo since Shaq and Kobe and the only team that could really go sneaker-to-sneaker with the big three and their additional talents in Miami. From the tutoring of 'cap to the jerseys raised to the rafters Dwight Howard looks to be the next Laker great. Let's just hope this championship commitment is a long term deal.
SIXTH MAN-ANTWAN JAMISON
Although the changing of the guards in Jodie Meeks and Chris Duhon, the old hands in Steve Blake and Jordan Hill and the developing talents of Devin Ebanks could claim place the real microwave bench player for the Lakers this season will be Antwan Jamison. The only one who could really follow in the off the bench smooth steps of former Sixth Man Of The Year Lamar Odom is a guy who helped pave the way for players like L.O. Not only is Jamison a valuable veteran, he's an all-star talent too and yet another scoring option for the Lake Show. Not only can he swing between a couple of positions, this man also has the inside and outside knowledge of this game on both the offensive and defensive end. The Summer signing between Nash and Howard may have been far from the Lakers biggest but he'll prove to be the x-factor that will help take this team to the finish. Some deals are blockbusters, others are independent successes. In the end it all adds up to the same thing however...winning.
Party Of Five.