I’m writing you today on behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers. I have no official capacity with the club, but after watching three games of the NBA Finals, you can’t help but feel sorry for guys like Phil Jackson, Sasha Vujcic, Kobe Bryant and especially Jack Nicholson, who’s about one more fourth-quarter comeback away from open-heart surgery. Something has to be done, and as a fan I appeal to you, the Old World, for assistance.
Simply put, the Lakers are one player short of a championship and European basketball may be uniquely qualified to help: The player I envision would be exactly the sort bred and trained in the European style.
Of course, the Zen Master is primarily known for two things in the world of hoops: His nine championship rings and his triangle offense. The two are inextricably linked and when properly executed, the triangle has proven deadly time and again. When the triangle is broken and the double-post offense becomes another variation on big guy-in-the-paint, Phil’s Lakers or (albeit far less frequently) Bulls lost.
During the heyday of Shaquille O’Neal’s time with the Lakers, Jackson once explained that one of the reasons why Wilt Chamberlain was so dominant in his time was because his teams employed the triangle offense. With such a presence in the lane to act as a sort of human lighthouse overseeing ball movement on the court, Wilt’s teammates could set Chamberlain up underneath over and over and over … sometimes up to 100 points’ worth of over.
With Andrew Bynum out, the problem for the Lakers in these playoffs has been a complete lack of inside presence. I can’t quite remember how Los Angeles continued winning after Bynum went down, but that was a long time ago anyway…
Now I know what you’re thinking, Europe: Guys like Shaq are rare anywhere in the world, much less in much of Europe. Hell, the only European O’Neal couldn’t single-handedly destroy in his prime was Arvydas Sabonis and another Sabonis is hardly waiting in the wings. But a force of nature like Shaq is hardly required for Phil & Co. to win a title, however; as evidence, check out the hardly megastar-level centers employed by the 1990s Chicago Bulls: Bill Cartwright and Luc Longley.
All the Lakers need is a center that can find the open man on the pass once in a while, a skill for which Longley was underrated throughout his career and one developed to perfection by Shaq by the time he left L.A.
Plus, the all-around skills the European game teaches the big guys are solely lacking American training. Another guy from the Continent would create just a beautiful passing game with the likes of Vujacic, Bryant and Derek Fisher on the floor at the same time. It seems to me the Lakers had something like that not so long ago…
To tell the truth, the Lakers don’t even need a star in the middle right now. With Lamar Odom capable of producing a double-double on any night even against the tenacious Celtic ‘D’, all Los Angeles needs in a capable big body to put on the hardly huge Kevin Garnett. On offense, a Laker big guy would only need skills enough to get around the hardly quick Kendrick Perkins. In fact, Perkins is just ready to be eaten alive by a quick guy unafraid to take it to the hoop.
Oh yes, fearlessness: That’s another quality I’m looking for in my new Laker player. Perhaps a player with a little high-pressure international play on his CV would be able to handle the high intensity of an NBA best-of-seven series. Like all other fans, Laker fans need to know their center won’t wilt under the heat of the media spotlight.
Finally, a modicum of hustle would be great. Sometimes a little awareness can go a long way. A prospective Laker from Europe would always have the stamina to run the length of the floor, to always know whom he’s playing against on defense, and to constantly put his body between the opposition and the basket. Just look at the energy and smarts displayed by Vujacic and Luke Walton, guys that might never make the Hall of Fame but will have earned it just as much as Michael Jordan if ever immortalized as champions.
Again do I appeal to you, o Europe, great father of the USA. You’ve gotta help the Lakers. In short, what the team appears to need is a Marc Gasol type, but maybe a year or two older, with some NBA experience.
You have anybody like that over there?
Thank you for your help.
P.S. Como se dice “Wake up and smell the coffee, Pau, game four’s in two days!” en Español?