The Lakers and a very fat mess

The Lakers have a veteran team, Westbrook raises doubts and everything goes through the health of LeBron and Davis. There are two options: ring or disaster.


If in 2013 (to put an approximate year) they tell us that LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza and company are going to join the same team, we would have been scared. At least the server that writes these lines, which sees many names and very varied in the most winning franchise of all time (along with the Celtics). At that time, LeBron was in his prime, in the best moment of form of his career, in his most complete version and with a defensive capacity that reached its climax, thanks to Erik Spoelstra and the well-built structure of the Heat. , with Pat Riley at the controls. Davis had just arrived in the NBA after being Olympic champion with the United States in 2012 and with him many justified promises of change were landing. Westbrook did not have the current reputation and was a good complement to Durant in the Thunder, who had reached the Finals of 2012. Carmelo was better than ever, leading the League in scoring and the Knicks to 54 wins, the only time they have exceeded the 50 barrier throughout the 21st century. Howard had started his downfall with a dismal season with the Lakers, but he was still the most dominant center in a competition that was beginning to run out of center position, at least as it was understood then. And Ariza was a sure, level-headed player, a voracious defender and an excellent three-point hitter.

Of course we are not in 2013 any more. At that time, the competition was in the last dawn of the pick and roll era and the triples were beginning to emerge and, with them, those Warriors who have changed basketball and raised Stephen Curry to Olympus (and vice versa). All the mentioned players, who will coincide in the Lakers, have grown up in the basketball of yesteryear, that of the fundamentals, that of the purists, that of blocking and continuation, that in which the pivots acted as such and not as authentic playmakers , that the tall man dominated and was synonymous with victory, that the middle distance shot was predominant and that the triples were not renounced, but not as many were thrown as now. And not all of those mentioned have adapted to the new times: Carmelo was reviled by the NBA and Westbrook by public opinion. The former was without a team for a long time, and the latter did merit to earn the animosity of almost the entire basketball world. Neither Howard, with his jovial and adolescent character, had a place until his usual redemption, in those Lakers to which he now returns. And only LeBron has dominated basketball today the same as yesterday. But of course, we are talking about a player who is still fighting to be the best player in history. As much as it may be to some

Another variant impossible to ignore is that of time. That which happens for everyone, even for a LeBron who seemed immune to it. Now, the Lakers are joined by war veterans, people who have seen a lot go by before their eyes and who do not believe in fate. They have seen things. That they have lived things. And they have neither the legs, nor the physique, nor the athletic ability of eight years ago. Or four. Or two. LeBron will turn 37 on December 30, Carmelo already has them, Westbrook is on his way to 33, Howard to 36, which are just what Ariza has ... and yes, Anthony Davis is 28, but more physical problems at that time. age than everyone else put together when they were the same. And that's not counting Marc Gasol, who has made his player option effective and will continue, except for surprise, linked to the Los Angeles franchise. Another 36 years, which will be 37 in January. In short, half of the squad is over thirty, the franchise player faces his 19th season and goes to almost 100 games per year, counting that he has also played 10 Finals; and that young part that lifted its spirits and ran tirelessly in defense (Caruso, KCP, Kuzma ...) has said goodbye in substitution of second swords that can even be third.What do the Lakers play?

The rumors became reality when Adrian Wojnarowski (of course) announced that Westbrook had reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Lakers. And, at that moment, everyone wondered (wondered) what the hell Rob Pelinka was playing. Nobody understood how that conclusion could be reached, in which head that kind of movement fit. Public enemy number 1, the king of the triple-double, the starry star, came to the city of light and the cradle of movie stars to be part of a project that aims at the ring. But he does it, be careful, with a thousand eyes on him, bad judgments and an absolute destruction of his reputation, carved out by individualities typical of past times and historical feats that have resulted in something that no one can get out of his head now: neither is that the way to win, nor is Westbrook the player to do it. Stepping out of Durant's shadow allowed him to explode (and in what way) statistically, averaging triple-double in four of the past five seasons, winning an MVP and a Top Scorer title ... and that's it. He came to the Rockets to shore up the project and ended up completely sinking it (which he already was, watch out), he has fallen in four first rounds in five years and has given more priority to his numbers than his teammates.

Westbrook (there will be much talk about him) arrives partially reconciled with public opinion after a season in which he threw the Wizards on his back, led the team to a meteoric comeback with video game numbers (for a change), but he sank again in playoffs. The NBA ignored him for the best quintets (he could have entered perfectly) and received support as unexpected as he deserved from the people, yes ... but being in the Wizards. Nobody saw him, nor does he see him, at this point, as a member of a winning team (or that pretends to be) and the possibility that he fits within the Frank Vogel scheme, who becomes strong from the defense and does not renounce the counterattack , but he does not play at the speed of the explosive base, it is, at least, improbable. Westbrook assumes a lot of ball and does not know how to play without it, something that can collide with a LeBron who will serve as a point guard since his arrival in Los Angeles. And it has a virtue: that automatic pilot that puts you in a regular season in which you hardly get tired and in which you reach everything and everyone with amazing ease and a privileged physique. He can give rest to others and pull his temper throughout the year, but then the playoffs come. And that's not to mention the fact that we are referring to a character that is difficult to train and find a place in a dressing room, even in one of such powerful personalities as Los Angeles. What I said: but, but, but ...

The other big question is how Carmelo is going to work. But in this case, his role may be easier to manage: he is the veteran of the group and has adopted a more residual role since his return to the NBA, with almost two full seasons without a team and without anyone wanting him. Now, he has a more humble role and has stopped trying to monopolize the game when he could no longer do so. Of course, he found a place in the Blazers, a team that shared his strengths and weaknesses in equal parts: they attacked too much and defended little or nothing (in fact, they received more than 114 points per game last season). At this point in his career, Carmelo will likely have few minutes and poorly distributed, but with the memory of his short-lived (and painful) stint with the Rockets, he will surely try to prevent things from ending in dry dock prematurely. . And he will, of course, have to defend himself if he wants to have a place in a game scheme in which he has fantastic defenders. And, at the same time, compete with several members of the squad that can take many minutes: Malik Monk, Kent Bazemore (another in his thirties), Wayne Ellington (he will turn 34), Talent Horton-Tucker, the rookies Austin Reaves and Joel Ayayi and the aforementioned Trevor Ariza. Too much competition at too old a age

Redemption and the Champion's Heart

One thing is objective: Westbrook and Carmelo have a better chance of winning the ring this year than last. Because yes, the Lakers have apparently gotten into a pointless mess by signing, above all, the first of them. They have an excessive seniority and an average age too high to compete against younger and more vigorous teams. Players very prone to injury. A wardrobe difficult to endure. But they have a roster full of stars, a Howard who is physically well, is coming off a very valid season in the Sixers and will solve the interior problems that the Lakers suffered last year. And, of course, there is Anthony Davis, a man who, respected by injuries, is the best in the NBA, an unshakable defender, an attacker who drops points from his hands, a player who rebounds, blocks, passes, scores, steal, run, post, fly and fly your team. And the Lakers' options will go through his physique.

And finally, of course, we have to talk about LeBron. The biggest reason to believe that the Lakers can be champions, The King whose crown wears that being with the surname Antetokounmpo, the man that no one should ever underestimate. An indomitable heart, an Olympian star, a player committed to history. LeBron will turn 37 in December and last basketball season, one in which he suffered the ailments of age and injuries derived from the collapsed calendar, he went to 25 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists. The forward, converted to base, went with the questioned The Decision from Ohio to Florida to win with the Miami Heat. Then, he returned to the homeland to conquer the promised ring. And from one of the smallest markets, he went to the largest to triumph again in the most difficult year, that of the coronavirus and the absence of a field advantage. Through him, his eternal figure and his well-known legend will pass the options of the Lakers.

His mere presence can contain Westbrook, his know-how, the care of his body and his speech may be enough to make it to the playoffs alive. And there, ultimately, your personality and your person will reappear. That absorbing man who seeks the throne of Michael Jordan. That player who has written a history of which the NBA has eaten like no one else. That celestial being that seeks its definitive place in history. Yes, the Lakers are in a very big mess, in a mess originated in a market in which many things have happened and very varied, they have formerly very good players but today somewhat past, or very veteran, a high risk of injuries, many irrepressible egos and a supposed innate ability to self-destruct. But most of all, they have LeBron James. And with him, let's not forget, anything is possible. Rudy Tomjanovich already said it, in one of those phrases that a competition has, the American one, very given to speak in real life as they do in the movies: "Never underestimate the heart of a champion." Well that.

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