Before the NBA season was indefinitely suspended, the Los Angeles Lakers clinched a spot in the postseason for the first time since the 2012-13 season, when they finished the regular season as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
The Spurs were obviously very good, as evidenced by the fact that they met the Miami Heat in the Finals that same year, but the Lakers were missing Kobe Bryant, leaving Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard to do the heavy-lifting for a top-heavy team.
Health permitting, this year will be different for the Lakers, who hold a 5.5 game lead over the No. 2 seed LA Clippers in the Western Conference standings. While they’re by no means the unanimous favorite to win the title this season, they’re Gasol’s pick, which is basically the same thing.
During an appearance on “Inside the Green Room with Danny Green,” Gasol said he’s picking his former team to win it all this season:
“I like the Lakers. I’ve liked how they’ve played these two thirds or three-quarters of the season. I’ve liked the veteran leadership of the team, I’ve loved how you guys ... played big, and how you cover so much ground and you dominate the paint but also surround the 3-point line with shooters, so I like the balance of your team, but obviously experience in the playoffs with the guys you guys have. With yourself (Green), with LeBron, with Rondo. I think Anthony Davis already has enough experience in the playoffs, and he can take it to the next level. I think that might give you an edge.
“Obviously you have to go through who you have to go through if the playoffs resume in a normal shape or form, through the Nuggets who are young and talented, or the Clippers, who are also well equipped. But in a potential Finals with the Bucks, which are my other team that I consider a favorite, you would have that edge over them I think, even though I love their team and they’re obviously very talented as well. It would be a fun Finals to watch, I think that’s obviously what we’re all kind of hoping for now. Me now as a fan, as a player that’s rehabbing and not really a part of or contractually attached to any team, I would enjoy watching that.
“So hopefully that’ll happen. I know the NBA is gonna do its very best for that to happen, or for the season to finish whatever way. Obviously you have to earn your spot in the Finals or to win championships, because they’re not given to you. No one will hand them out. You have to earn them, but I think the Lakers would have a little bit of an edge over everyone if everyone stays healthy and things go the right way.”
As a two-time NBA champion himself, Gasol knows what it takes for a team to win a championship, even if he played in a different era when he won his. The Lakers also have a few players on their roster that know what it takes to win at the highest level, as Gasol noted. To be specific, the he Lakers have five NBA champions on their roster: LeBron James, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook and JaVale McGee. Of those five players, three of them were in last year’s Finals: Green, McGee and Cook. They also have Dwight Howard, who played in the 2009 NBA Finals.
Obviously there are factors beyond experience that go into winning a title, but that experience is something that a lot of other teams don’t have and can’t teach. Hopefully they’ll get the chance to show that this year.
Also, please vote in this poll:
If the Lakers win it all this season, should they give a ring to Pau Gasol for just being the best?
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