Your team is an old rap album: the 2013 Lakers are "Enter the 36 Chambers" by The Wu-Tang Clan

The world wasn’t ready.

Take a group of hungry kids, some of whom already had rap industry hard-luck stories to tell (We love you, Prince Rakeem!), give them a leader capable of assembling all the talent and finding the right roles for them to fill, and unleash them on a hip-hop industry that had never seen anything even remotely like it.

By the time the “Protect Ya Neck/Method Man” single had hit the streets, the Wu was off and running. Once the album dropped, the Clan had grabbed a headlock on the game that it in many ways still holds today.

What that record means to the culture is undeniable. What Wu-tang did was gather a devastating array of hip-hop talents that ran the gamut, from mad scientists to thoughtful poets to bonafide street scholars to downright lunatic wildcards. Wu-tang, much like their first album, had all the bases covered.

Same thing for the songs. “CREAM” spoke to those with money on the mind. “Protect Ya Neck” was for the backpackin’, beatminded kids. If you liked story raps, “Can it be all so simple” had you hooked. Those who loved the Martial arts slant had “Mystery of Chessboxin”. Again, the Wu had it all on lock.

On paper, so do these Lakers.  Scoring, passing, defensive presence, leadership, experience, a crazy dude. All of it is here in abundance. Yeah, they still have to go out and prove it, but even the most cynical observer was shaking their head when the Lakers managed to land both Nash and Howard in a matter of days.

Sure, nothing is a given just yet, but to say this team has the potential to bring the league to its knees is simply common sense.

Really, this analogy is smooth as fuck. Even the personnel lines up like a mirror image:

Kobe as the RZA Still the brains of the operation, the man through whom everything runs, the master of all he surveys, Kobe is still the straw that stirs the drink. Just like with the RZA, he may be past his prime and experiencing a backlash from the rest of the crew, but Kobe is still the man capable of leading them to the promised land and without him, it’s simply not possible.

Steve Nash as the GZA For the record, I’m a GZA guy. If Wu has a little something for everyone, the intelligent, cocksure prose of the GZA is that soemthing where I’m concerned.

Dwight Howard as Method Man The villain. The agitator. The guy who just maybe wanted to be a solo act from day one.

Mike Brown as Inspectah Deck You’ve got this monster collection of styles, personalities and charisma, the poet, the brains, the hood dudes, the swagger, and then you’ve got, um…a nice dude. If it feels wrong, that’s because it is. trust me on this much, if this team doesnt meet expectations and soon, you can kiss Brown goodbye.

Metta World Peace as ODB Yep.

Pau Gasol as Raekwon and Ghostface Killah Easy comparison. When you think street poetry, tales of the drug game and authentic hood styl…

Ah fuck, I got nothing for Pau. Apologies to Rae and Ghost.

Really, there isn’t gonna be any stopping them if they have their shit together injury and/or chemistry-wise. Talk yourself into how old Nash is, how selfish Kobe is, blah blah blah. If they stay healthy and united, they are gonna run shit. Don’t bother arguing with me, for I will not be moved on this.

This year, the Lakers ain’t nothin’ to fuck with.

 ON THE COURT…

Scary, scary bunch.

If you ain’t scared…

Ask yourself this much. If you were in charge of drawing up the defensive game plan that would put the clamps on this team, what bright ideas could you muster that would stand any chance of sustained success, especially over a 7 game series? This team features no less than FOUR DUDES who are capable of drawing double teams. The team has shooting. Guys who can score. One of the best distributors the game has ever seen. One of it’s most coldblooded assassins. A seven footer who can spot up or score on the block. The most frightening pick & roll big man in the sport. An improved bench that features veteran scorers and blue-collar types.

What then, would be your strategy?

Honestly, I’d go with “play them honest and cross your fingers”. Hardly a plan that stands a chance of working, I’d say.

Still, it can all fall apart like a wet taco if the chemistry ain’t there. I watched Craig Sager interview the Lakers three stars (Nash, Kobe and Howard) last week and ask them all the following question:

Just whose team is this?

Nash said Kobe. Kobe said Kobe. In fact, Kobe made a point of saying “come on, that’s a silly question”, which really, it is. Dwight? Well, he gave the same type of goofy ass “it’s our team, mannnn” bullshit, noncommital answer that highlighted his legendarily awkward scene last year when a reporter asked him, with Stan Van Gundy present, if he was trying to get his coach fired. Did you catch that?

Yep, the Dwight thing could be a problem.

Look, a smart man knows what’s likely going on here. I’d bet that before or shortly after the trade that brought Dwight to LA went down, the Laker brass sat him down and said something like “look, all we need you to do is play nice for the next two years, defer to Kobe, win some rings and enjoy yourself. After that, this team is all yours, baby!’.

Still, I’m a little nervous about how the pecking order issue is going to shake out here, and if you think Kobe is going to hop in the back seat and play second fiddle, wellllllll.

So that as I see it is the only obstacle, even if it’s a formidable one. If the Lakers can sort that much out, there is just too much talent here, too much of the right kind of talent in fact, to lose.

Oh, and yeah, the whole Princeton offense thing does tweak me a bit. I love the Priceton quite a bit, but I’m just not sure it’s the right fit for a team that has Steve Nash on it, and the irony is that they really could have used it alot more last year in lieu of the “Kobe dribbles like the devil while 4 dudes stand around” stuff they ran all season.

Still, the point stands. For this Laker team, it’s championship or bust. To me, it’s their title to lose.

Of course, that’s why they play the games.

-JH

 

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