January 22, 2021

Just two months off from leading the Lakers to their 17th NBA world championship in “The Bubble” LA is already in a new season in defense of that title. With that comes the usual questions swirling sports circles. “Can Lebron James and the Lakers do it again?”  While betting odds already have LA as the hands-on favorite to repeat. There are several factors will come into play as James and the Lakers pursue Title #18!  

 

Returning Players   

James is under contract for another two years. But who else returned to LA?  For starters, Anthony Davis signed a five-year $190 million-dollar deal.  After getting a taste of his 1st title, it makes sense that Davis would want to stay in LA. Especially playing side by side with James.  Also returning is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope receiving a three-year deal worth $40 million.  Caldwell-Pope played in all 21 playoff games last season. Caldwell-Pope averaged almost 11 points and 3 rebounds per game during the post-season run. He also plays good perimeter defense which the Lakers can use.  Markieff Morris returns as well for the league veteran one-year minimum contract.  Morris also played in all 21 post-season games and averaged 18 minutes per game while shooting 42% from the 3-point line. 

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Free Agents

While LA lost players in free agency like Dwight Howard (signed with 76ers) and Rajon Rondo (now with the Hawks). GM Rob Pelinka wasted no time making his own free agent moves. Starting with the signings of Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell.  Gasol and Harrell replace Howard and McGee and give LA depth at the center position.  Gasol was instrumental in helping Toronto win their 1st NBA title during the 2018-2019 season. Racking up a field goal percentage of 42.2% while shooting 87.5% from the free throw line and averaging 7.5 rebounds per game.

Gasol was actually drafted by the Lakers in 2007. Howevr, his rights were traded to Memphis in early 2008 before ever playing a game.  Harrell won the 6th Man of the Year award last season. Averaging 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game with the LA Clippers.  Adding Harrell improves the bench scoring for LA which was lacking at times last season.  Other additions include Dennis Schroder and Wesley Matthews which helps to strengthen the backcourt now that Rondo and Bradley have signed with other teams   Schroder was acquired from OKC in exchange for Danny Green and draft rights for Jaden McDaniel and helps to strengthen the bench scoring.  Schroder averaged 18.9 points and 4 assist per game with OKC last season and was behind Harrell in last year’s voting for 6th Man of the Year.  This is the 7th team for Matthews in his career with most recently playing for the Bucks last season where he averaged 24 minutes per game scoring an average of 7.4 points per game.

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Bubble Fatigue

This past season has been one like no other.  With the shutdown of the season in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic then restarting inside a bubble in Florida for several months. Players were forced to be away from their families, friends and comforts of home. The team must be physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted.  Unfortunately, there’s was little rest for the champs. Is that enough time for Lebron and company to rest and recharge?  What will the new season look like playing in their arenas with no fans?  If the coronavirus rages on and cases continue to climb will they be willing to go back to “The Bubble”? All questions yet to be answered.

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Photo by Ramiro Pianarosa on Unsplash

The Road to a Repeat is Always Harder

The Lakers road to this title was a difficult one since they played under extraordinary circumstances with the passing of Kobe, the worry of a global health crisis and social unrest.  The road to a repeat title will be even tougher as the health pandemic continues to affect the country and now the rest of the teams gunning for them. 

The Clippers hope to redeem themselves with new head coach Tyrone Lu.  Can he make the combination of Leonard and George get over the hump and make it to the Finals?  Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic and the Utah Jazz are expected to be back more experienced and motivated after reaching the Western Conference finals.  Is the addition of former Laker Avery Bradley the final piece to improve Miami’s roster and help them get a return trip to the Finals?  Durant and Kyrie Irving are expected to make the Brooklyn Nets a power-house team in the East.  Can BK led by former NBA all-star and first-time coach Steve Nash take Brooklyn to the promise land?       

Many scenarios and factors to consider when analyzing if King James and the Lakers can repeat as champs.  LA has reloaded and looks stronger than ever but as the old boxing adage goes “It’s easy to win the title, it’s harder to defend it!”  Whichever way the cards unfold, the season is sure to be another exciting one to watch as the Lakers set out to defend their NBA title.   

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