Lakers fans are not known for their reasonable expectations or patience, and LeBron James coming to the team has only enabled those tendencies. However, around the team a lot of people are tamping down expectations, with some even suggesting the Lakers will miss the playoffs.
Kobe Bryant is a Laker fan, and he is tamping down nothing.
In a wide-ranging Q&A with The Undefeated, Kobe addressed his expectations for the Lakers this season.
“The Lakers are going to surprise a lot of people. Rob [Pelinka, the Lakers’ general manager] has smartly built a team of physical players. Big, versatile, fast, physical players. He understands that if you want to challenge Golden State, you can’t challenge them with shooting. That’s what they do. You’ve got to beat them somewhere else. You have to beat them with size. Chippiness. Feistiness. Strength and speed. And he has a team that has that. He has a mixture of vets that are still in their primes and young kids that are hungry and open-minded and willing to learn. A team that can compete and challenge. That is a dangerous mix.”
So, Kobe, we’re talking about a playoff team?
“Oh, God, yes. C’mon.”
I predicted the Lakers as a playoff team, somewhere around 47 wins. They are going to be good, I like the young core with Brandon Ingram (who will have to be the No. 2 option this season), Lonzo Ball and the rest. The young players are going to have to step up, and the veterans — particularly Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee — can help.
But the margin for error is slim, as it is with every team in the West playoff hunt not in Houston or the Bay Area. A slow start and it’s fair to ask questions about the Lakers. Injuries will play a role in the West no doubt. The Lakers should be a playoff team but they are no lock.
If they do fall short, Kobe will not be the only disappointed fan asking questions.
Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.
It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.
Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates and family for helping him reach this point.
Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.
Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.
James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win.
The last player from Europe to win the MVP award was Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.
Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.
And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.
Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.
The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.
This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.
Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).
It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).
Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.
He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.
The Clippers bench play this season was the reason they made the playoffs (and pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round). Montrezl Harrell blossomed into his own as part of that.
However, it was Lou Williams who made it all work, which is why he won his second straight (and third overall) Sixth Man of the Year Award on Monday night. He garnered 96 of the 100 first-place votes.
Williams spoke from the heart about second chances and his faith in himself.
“Four years ago, I thought I was done, like I was coming to the end of my career,” Williams said.
Williams averaged 20 points a game and he is still one of the better bucket getters in the NBA, an isolation master. What he did better this year, however, was playmaking, dishing out 5.4 assists per game. His teammate Montrezl Harrell — the NBA’s best energy big off the bench last season who finished third in the Sixth Man voting — was the biggest beneficiary of those passes.
Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis came in second in the voting, with Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets third and Terrence Ross of Orlando fifth. Here is the voting breakdown.