Aaron and I had the following conversation on November 2nd. The Lakers were 0-2 (going on 0-3) as we had the conversation. Mike Brown hadn't been fired. While Nash's leg was already broken, we didn't know that when we were talking (recall that didn't come out until a few days after the Portland game Nash was injured in). Whatever the case, so much was going on with the Lakers, and I didn't know what to make of the stories that kept pouring in. I especially didn't know what to make of this particular conversation. So I didn't seize the moment, as Aaron suggested.
To my astonishment, it's January 25th (nearly three months after this conversation!) and I've had to make only minor edits, all for grammar/spelling, semantic clarification, cussin', and brevity. I can't make you believe we really had this conversation. All I can do is present it for your amusement (and horror, considering how disturbingly prophetic some sections of the conversation are in retrospect). Also, I am revealing to the world that I thought the Clippers would win about 43 games and the Warriors would get 35 wins, so... yeah. Nostradamus I am not. But the rest? That's gravy! Get that oil, son! GET THAT OIL!
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Alex: A thought for your consideration: The Lakers are not conceivably an unstoppable team, because even in their best iteration, they are eminently and fundamentally flawed. That said, they could be scary good. Still, I'd like to see that actually happen, instead of just taking for granted that they'll get there. I mean, plenty of teams could be scary good (remember the Knicks!)... but health can do a lot to that "could" in a hurry, as can redundancy and uncreative coaching.
Aaron: Fair. This is my thought: I think the Lakers could be pretty great, and I see why the consensus is there. But making the leap from "could" to "will" requires a lot of factors to turn up in their favor, and not all are guaranteed to do so. In my assessment:
- Dwight Howard has to get healthy. His defense looks atrocious and the back problem looms hard, because he can't seem to move laterally anymore or cover as wide an area of the court.
- Pau Gasol needs to be able to defend perimeter guys in at least a remotely passable manner, as they're going to face good perimeter big men in every round of the playoffs. Frankly, if Pau continues to allow 8-8 on midrange to any half-decent big man he guards, they're going to be awful.
- Steve Nash needs to be able to play ~30+ minutes per game in the playoffs. This is essential, and an underrated necessity for them. The backup options are so unbelievably bad that anything less leaves them with this gaping flesh wound for 10-15 minutes of the game, and leaves them too vulnerable offensively to respond. It's this huge internal hole the starters will always have to dig out of
- They need to be in good health and not at all exhausted come playoff time — these are old guys and this is not a given, and exhaustion will sap an old man game more than anything, heh.
- And finally, in a 7-game series? They need Steve Nash's performance variance either at a very low level around an average mean or at a very high level that errs on the high side.
Now, the thing with these? They all could happen, and even if only 2 or 3 happen, they'll still be a decent team. (Aaron Note: Yeah, nobody really could've seen NONE of them happening coming.) But the other thing is that it's an extraordinarily large assumption to just assume they'll all happen without a hitch. It's basically as big an inherent assumption as a Spurs fan saying: "Yeah, by the playoffs Tiago Splitter will be producing double-doubles nightly, we'll trade Blair/Neal for Anderson Varejao, Tim Duncan will only play 24 MPG of 25-15 ball in the regular season but 40 MPG in the playoffs, Tony Parker will average 30 points per game without breaking a sweat, and Kawhi Leonard will be the 2nd-best SF in the league by May." But one of the sets of team assumptions is today's "conventional wisdom", while the other is (rightfully) completely insane. Continue reading