Because of the so-called “easy road” to the Lakers’ 17th NBA championship, many people throughout the NBA world are saying that this championship doesn’t count as much as rings won by past teams. I’m here to tell you why those people are wrong, and if anyone’s wondering, I’m a Celtics fan.
Anti-Lakers, and anti-LeBron fans have pointed heavily towards the LA Clippers’ second-round exit as an excuse for why this Finals win is lesser than those of the past. While having to face the Clippers in the Western Conference Finals certainly would have made the road to the Finals harder for the Lakers, the Clippers early exit also provides a reason why this year’s NBA Playoffs were especially difficult.
That’s the mental aspect of the NBA bubble. Being stuck in a hotel for 90 days is hard. Mark Medina of USA Today spent 59 days in the bubble, and said that it was, “impossible not to feel burned out and stir crazy.” Medina wasn’t even playing. The teams were playing every other day. The players didn’t even have a chance to enjoy the extra-curricular activities that the Disney campus offered.
Remember Jamal Murray’s reaction during his postgame interview after beating the Jazz in a game 7? After he was told that the Nuggets had one day of rest before having to face the Clippers? That’s how they all felt.
For the majority of the 90 days, you were around your teammates 24/7, or close to it. And the Clippers weren’t able to develop the chemistry necessary to survive socially as a team throughout the year, and as various reports have shown, the majority of their key players were jealous of the treatments Kawhi was getting.
Kawhi had power over virtually everything that involved himself, including where he could live and when he would play. The other Clippers players weren’t allowed those royalties. Between being burned out and not even wanting to be with their teammates, it’s no wonder that the Clippers folded like they did.
However, the Lakers decided that “chemistry was number one”, as Jared Dudley put it in a recent podcast with Bill Simmons, from the start of the season. Back in January, Dudley proclaimed that the Lakers had the “best chemistry” that he’d ever “had on a team.”
Lastly, just because the Lakers breezed past most of their opponents does make their opponents worse than they are. The first round for the top seed is supposed to be easy. That’s why you fight during the regular season, which the Lakers did. In the second round, against the Houston Rockets, the Lakers just composed an excellent strategy, albeit a simple one. Then in the Western Conference Finals, they faced a red-hot Nuggets team, and the Lakers had the perfect counters to Jokic, and LeBron and Anthony Davis were too good for the Nuggets wings.
Granted, in the NBA Finals, they did get lucky when Dragic and Bam went down, the two players I thought were the key for the Heat defeating the Lakers. But name one team that hasn’t gotten lucky on their way to winning the title. Plus, whenever the Lakers took their foot off the gas, the Heat pounced. The Lakers had to stay on top of their game to win that series, and they did.
Just because the Lakers were able to overcome difficulties that other teams couldn’t does not make their championship less meaningful or less arduous. If anything, this championship was a lot harder then people are giving it credit.
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