Is Kobe Bryant Crazy For Guaranteeing That The Lakers Will Win The NBA Title In 2012?
Provided the NBA lockout doesn’t force the league to cancel the 2011-12 season altogether, KB24 thinks the Lakers have a real shot at taking home the title next June. He said as much during a recent leg of his Nike Asia Tour in China when he met with fans to talk about the future of his NBA team. “With all the fans here,” he said,” and all the support that we have, we’re gonna win it next year.”
It’s a bold statement from a superstar who is, no doubt, just saying what he’s supposed to say as the leader of one of the most storied franchises in the league. As at least one columnist pointed out earlier this week, it’s also a very telling statement as it reveals that, despite the coaching change the Lakers underwent after the ’10-’11 season and the fact that the team hasn’t added any integral pieces into the mix, Bryant appears to be happy with the future of the Lakers. However, is he talking crazy when he says that he thinks the Lakers can content for a championship next year?
The short answer is…YES! It’s not like the Lakers came close to going to the NBA Finals last year or even really put up a fight when it came time to try and repeat their run to the title in 2009. They basically rolled over and died as they got swept out of the NBA Playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks. And while we will admit that the Mavs were simply the better team last year and rode a huge wave of momentum throughout the playoffs, the Lakers looked, in a word, old when they played them. Which is why we’re a little surprised to hear that Kobe is so confident going into next season.
The other issue here is that Kobe Bryant isn’t Kobe Bryant anymore. Sure, he can still show up in the big games, and he’s still one of the most talented players in the league. But Kobe doesn’t take over games like he used to and he certainly can’t will the Lakers to victory in four games in a playoff series anymore. He needs help and with the lineup the Lakers have in place right now, it’s unlikely he’ll get the amount of help he needs next season when the Lakers try to make a playoff push. He’ll get it for a game or two from guys like Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum, but the Lakers don’t have anyone who can be the Robin to Bryant’s Batman. They, more or less, have a group of players who have grown accustomed to watching Kobe make big plays. And while they’ve all contributed in some way or another to the team in the past, they struggled to gel as a unit and do it consistently for much of last season. It became evident when they played the Mavs in the playoffs.
Finally, the Western Conference—and the NBA as a whole—is shaping up to be the best it’s been in years again next season. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh have a year under the belts and will no doubt be ready to avenge their NBA Finals defeat. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs know that they have what it takes to win a title now and will be ready to try and repeat. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder have gained another year of experience and shouldn’t be taken lightly. And Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls will be back to make another deep playoff run.
Bottom line: There are too many teams that are better than the Lakers at this point for us to take Kobe’s guarantee seriously. If Kobe is 100 percent healthy and the Lakers make at least one major move to land them another scorer, we might be ready to put them in the “championship contenders” category of the NBA. But as it stands now, we can’t see them making it much further than the second round of the playoffs next season, even with a lockout that shortens the season and gives Kobe a chance to enter the playoffs without all of the bumps and bruises that have plagued him for the last few seasons.
We can’t completely count them out—they did, after all, win the ‘chip just last year—but we can say with a certain amount of certainty that they’d have to catch lightning in a bottle to even make it to the NBA Finals, let alone win it all. So while Kobe Bryant might have high hopes for next season, we certainly don’t. Sorry, Kob. But another title just isn’t in the cards for you.