Color it over. Actually, color it purple…and gold. The biggest question a year from now will be, “Will Phil Jackson be healthy enough to return and go for his unprecedented 4th 3-peat?”
The Lakers went from favorites to collosal favorites next season when they signed Ron Artest. What a huge upgrade from Trevor Ariza to Ron-Ron! Entering the offseason, the thought was that Artest would return to Houston, a place he admittidly loved and try to take down the Lakers in 2010. The Rockets came closest in the playoffs, forcing a 7th game in Staples, despite playing short-handed with no Yao and no T-Mac.
But the news of Yao’s latest catastrophy changed the Rockets plans, and Artest’s. When the opportunity presented itself, it became an easy choice to part ways with breakout post-season performer, and former Magic player, Trevor Ariza, who ironically was signed by Houston, to a longer and more expensive deal. I like Trevor, but that move has disaster written all over it!
The Lakers now possess the best wing combo in the league, and the best trio of 4-5 men in the NBA (assuming Lamar Odom is resigned). The window for Kobe Bryant winning titles now appears to be opened wider, and suddenly reaching Michael Jordan’s six titles doesn’t seem like a long-shot at all.
Kobe will get some much needed rest this summer. Andrew Bynum will continue his growth into an elite NBA center. People forget how young he is (just 21 ) and how little he has played (just 85 games the last two regular seasons because of injury). And maybe most importantly, they inject new life, new blood, and new hunger into the locker room.
The biggest challenge every champion faces is being sluggish. Lazy. Satisfied. Adding Artest brings in new motivation. Someone else to win a title for. Somebody that will match the intensity of Kobe Bryant and challenge complancy within the team.
Oddly enough, Yao Ming’s injury may have helped the Lakers win a title in 2009 and made them the team to beat in 2010. And 2011. And, well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.