With the Lakers in 9th place and two games out of the Western Conference playoffs. The Black Mamba guaranteed his team would still qualify for the post-season. The world wasn't too optimistic about the Lakers chances this season but I'm one of the few who was.
This summer when LA added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash it was assumed that they would instantly be the favorites to win the NBA title. But a tumultuous start to the season including a sub .500 record at the All-Star break, and one of the quickest head coach firings in history led many to believe the Lakers were done.
Alas you can never count a team out that has Kobe "Vino" Bryant on the roster. Since the all-star break, L.A. is 11-3, with Kobe averaging over 30 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists a game while shooting close to 55 percent from the field. Howard has become much more effective offensively and seems to be transitioning into the defensive anchor Laker-Nation was hoping for when they acquired him in a trade for All-Star center Andrew Bynum.
The cohesiveness of the team has improved dramatically as of late. With the offseason additions of Howard, Nash, and Antwan Jamison, L.A. added 2 MVPs, 3 Defensive POY awards, 8 All-NBA 1st teams (11 total), 16 All-Star appearances, and 1 Sixth Man award to its already illustrious trophy case. The overabundance of experience currently has the Lakers in the 8th seed just a half game back of the Houston Rockets for 7th.
These are the signs of a team poised to make a run deep into the playoffs. Pau Gasol's injury may have been a blessing in disguise, as it led to the emergence of Earl Clark who immediately became a significant contributor in Pau's absence. Gasol's return to the starting lineup will allow Clark to add depth to an already formidable Laker bench which includes Antwan Jamison and Steve Blake. Had Jordan Hill not been lost for the season with a hip injury, we could be talking one of the best second units in the league.
Kobe merely guaranteed a postseason appearance, but I'm willing to take it a step further. The Los Angeles Lakers are going to win the championship this season. Yea I said it... take a moment to let it all sink in. 2013 is the year the most envied player and franchise in sports once again reaches the mountaintop. So remember when it happens that you heard it here first!
The unparalleled leadership of Kobe "Bean" Bryant paired with the championship pedigree of Gasol and savvy of Steve Nash will guide LA through the Western Conference Playoffs. The Spurs play incredible ball during the regular season but like in years past will run out of gas before the finals. Oklahoma City trading James Harden killed any hopes of them winning this year. And teams like the Clippers, Grizzlies, and Nuggets simply lack the "it factor" needed to win an NBA title.
So where does that leave us? With the match up everyone's been dying to see. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat for all the marbles! The way to beat the Heat is to eliminate their transition opportunities by making it a half court game. Who better equipped to do so than L.A. with two of the most talented seven-footers in the world on the same roster? If Metta World Peace can be the all-world defender he's capable of being, and somewhat contain Lebron James the door would be wide open for some of Kobe's last minute heroics. Lakers win in six games on Miami's home court capping the biggest single season turnaround in history. See you at the parade!
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