Lakers still the team to beat in the NBA

Michael Moses

The best team in the NBA does not have a Big Three. They didn’t have a huge off-season highlighted with “Decisions” or by the media. Their only busy, media-crazy day happened on one specific summer afternoon.

And on that day, they were parading downtown Los Angeles, celebrating their 16th NBA Championship.

The Los Angeles Lakers are still the best team in the NBA. It used to kill me to say that. I couldn’t stand Kobe Bryant. His attitude and cockiness would rub me the wrong way. I’ll admit it: I hated him because he was so good. I thought Phil Jackson was an overrated coach, always just surrounded by superstar players. I hated the colors purple and gold. I used to be a Laker hater.

Nowadays, I have more respect for the Los Angeles Lakers than ever. In an offseason highlighted by the Miami Heat’s acquisitions to form another Big Three in the east, to go along with the Boston Celtics’, the Lakers quietly improved their Championship team. With all of the media attention on the other teams, LA focused on improving their bench with players that would start on most NBA teams.

Guards Matt Barnes and Steve Blake could have signed with other teams for a much higher salary, but they wanted to join a championship contender. Both additions have proved to be huge upgrades. Veteran center Theo Ratliff and rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter rounded out the Lakers offseason. Perhaps most importantly, point guard Derek Fisher returned to LA for another year. According to Sports Illustrated, the Lakers offseason grade was an A, the highest in the Pacific Division.

Miami has been winning games and do look impressive, but it is obvious that they are still getting used to playing alongside each other. This is definitely not the case in Los Angeles. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have dominated the low blocks, and not just with their scoring. Their chemistry together is so evident with each no-look pass. Add in the best player in the NBA — yes, the best — Kobe Bryant, and you have something no other NBA team has: experience to go along with talent.

Kobe no longer has to be the dominant scorer, yet he still is the most dominant player. He recorded his 17th career triple-double in this past Wednesday night against Sacramento. When you watch him play, you can tell everyone feeds off his passion and energy, something that I believe LeBron still hasn’t quite captured. Until Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron win a title, the kings of the court will remain in Hollywood, not South Beach.

The Lakers are a perfect 5-0 this season and leading the NBA in points per game. Fans have every right to be excited about the Miami Heat this season, but they shouldn’t be overlooking the champs. One thing is for certain, though, the players themselves sure aren’t:

“The Lakers are the champions and we know the Lakers are very good. That’s the team that everyone’s shooting for and they should be. Not the Miami Heat. The Los Angeles Lakers.” –Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat