Elliott: Lakers are big favorites to repeat — and it may be their biggest obstacle
Lakers forward Anthony Davis, who is a free agent this offseason, rebounded in Game 6 on Sunday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Before the final piece of confetti was wiped off the floor at the AdventHealth Arena on Sunday, before every member of the Champions Lakers posed for a photo with the Larry O'Brien Trophy, the odds makers had already established the Lakers as strong consensus favorites to repeat next season .
It doesn't matter that the world has become completely unpredictable. Or that it is uncertain when the next NBA season will start because the pandemic-delayed 2019-20 season ended exactly as the 2020-21 season should have started.
Commissioner Adam Silver said ahead of the final that the scheduled date for the start of the 2020-21 season is "Christmas earliest, probably January" but that now seems optimistic. Players need time to recover from the physical and mental stress of playing in a coronavirus-resistant bladder. It will take time for the league and players' union to resolve financial and logistical issues caused by the pandemic and the resulting drop in basketball-related revenues, which will likely result in a decrease in the salary cap. As with the season that has just ended, nothing will be normal about this off-season.
It only makes sense that the Lakers are the team to beat at the start of next season. Your biggest obstacle could be yourself and whether you can relive the hunger, unity and inspiration that led you to win the 17th title in the franchise.
Their dominance in the regular season, followed by the predominance of the playoffs against a variety of styles and a parade of established and emerging stars, suggests they can become a dynasty - at least while LeBron James and Anthony Davis are around. Their selflessness was rare for superstars and coach Frank Vogel cleverly made use of the team's supporting cast. He convinced the players with a philosophy of defense and held them together by planning with James and Davis, whose harmony created a collaborative atmosphere from top to bottom.
James said he was driven by the thought that I had something to prove and that it might be difficult for him to restore that motivation. But he appreciated that Vogel often sought his advice and he enjoyed working with Davis, making it a personal mission to lead Davis to a championship. Leading the Lakers to a second straight title might appeal to James' sense of tradition.
"This is a historic franchise," James said on Sunday, "and being part of it is something I can talk about and my grandchildren and children can talk about: your paw played for the lot." Angeles Lakers. It's like playing for the Yankees and winning or playing for the Cowboys and winning a Super Bowl or the Patriots. It's like playing for the Red Sox. Winning with a historic franchise is something you can always remember what you do it for, whether your mind is wavering or not. "
Davis' impending free agent status is a little cloud hovering over any discussion of a Lakers rerun. He said on Sunday that he isn't sure of his plans but it seems unlikely that if he has a great chance at 27 of winning a second straight title and eventually becoming the centerpiece of the team, he'll leave. “I had a great time in LA this first year. It was nothing but joy, nothing but astonishment. We'll find out in the next few months, ”said Davis.
Oddsmakers listed the Lakers and Clippers as 1-2, followed by Golden State, Milwaukee, Boston, and Brooklyn in varying order. The Miami Heat, despite running from 5th in the east to second in the finals and the emergence of Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro, weren't a consistent top five pick. Pat Riley has not lost his talent for uncovering overlooked talent. So count them at your own risk.
"We'll be coming back. We'll be back, ”said Jimmy Butler on Sunday. “We all say that in this locker room. We have people who want to do that. We have people who want to go back to the gym and work on this thing. "
It's hard to believe a Lakers replay will be derailed by the Clippers, who were preseason favorites but collapsed in round two, wasting a 3-1 lead over Denver. The Clippers have three major off-season requirements: hire a coach to replace Doc Rivers, re-sign Supersub Montrezl Harrell, and figure out how to cover up the Lakers' latest championship banner once it is displayed at the Staples Center. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard couldn't win chemistry and they have one more season to find the right mix.
Golden State is fascinating because Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are expected to be healthy again and ready to revive the Warriors after a terrible season. The Warriors have lost some RPG but will have the number 2 on the draft to infuse teens or take advantage of a trade. Houston needs a new coach and a conversion that will throw them out of the competition at short notice.
In the east, Brooklyn failed to make the playoffs without an injured Kevin Durant, and the pairing of Durant and Kyrie Irving, who pulled out of the bladder to rehabilitate a shoulder injury, should be dynamic. The big question is if Steve Nash will be the rare great player who becomes a great coach. A member of the Antetokounmpo family played for a championship team, but it wasn't a regular season MVP Giannis of the Milwaukee Bucks: his younger brother Kostas, a Lakers reservation, partied on Sunday long after Giannis and the Bucks were fired in the second Round of Miami.
After a late night of partying in Florida, the Lakers returned to Los Angeles Monday with a trophy, planning to celebrate a long journey that turned in unexpected directions but ended where they'd hoped it would. The next season will come quickly. If they want it enough, there could be a repetition.
"The teams will come after you next year, especially if you are one of the top players," Davis said on Sunday. “Boys want to take out the champion. In the next four or five years you have to keep getting better. I have to keep improving my game and I hope I can have that feeling again. "
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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