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All against LeBron James and the Lakers

All against LeBron James and the Lakers

LeBron James no longer plays for money. He no longer plays for thick historical stats. Not even for individual awards. The King plays for his crown. Actually, because of his legacy. And, especially, because of its place in history. James has four NBA rings today, he knows that it is impossible to reach 11 for Bill Russell, the most winner in history, but it is not so difficult to reach his great goal, Michael Jordan, the best player of all time. LBJ, at 35 years old, feels that today, after achieving a new championship two and a half months ago, he can begin to argue as equals with MJ about who is the best in history. For many it is a meaningless discussion, because it is very complex to compare players, times and contexts –in addition to the fact that there are subjective issues- but intimately the King is interested in that situation, almost that he is distraught. And although in numbers the N ° 23 is far behind (he achieved six, without losing finals, unlike the four in 10 definitions for James), how he has magnified him lately.

LeBron climbed into history with his latest achievement, in Orlando. He reached the summarized bubble that defined the season – in which the NBA invested 180 million to save 1500! – and once again showed that he is still the best and most dominant, when he has already been on the spine for 17 seasons. Without physical decline, with a combination of technical baggage, experience, lucidity and rarely seen personality, it was the difference between the Lakers and the rest. And, thus, get ahead of the debate with those who still competed – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson – and get closer to His Majesty, the idol of his childhood. Nothing more and nothing less.

James has already managed to lead three different teams to glory. First to the Miami Heat, with a two-time championship (2012 and 2013) that allowed him to remove a heavy backpack, and then to the Cavaliers of his region, in 2016. James had promised to bring the elusive ring to Cleveland, a city that carried a sporting karma, 52 years old without a degree in any professional sport. The magic is that, that title, had all the spices of a Hollywood movie, since the Cavs became the first team to turn around a final that lost 3-1, they reached glory as visitors (no local had lost a Game 7 since 1978) and they did it against none other than the favorite and team that was marking an era (had broken the regular season record with 73 wins in 82 games) and changing basketball like the Warriors.

This new achievement, in October, added another halo of romanticism to his career because he managed to return to the top no less than the Lakers, who had not been champions for 10 years, precisely with Kobe Bryant, the legend who died in January at the that LeBron had sworn to dedicate the new conquest to him. James carried all that pressure, that of the Lakers and that of the promise to his friend, as always, with an astonishing naturalness. It took a season to settle in (record of 37-45, without reaching the playoffs) but, together with the leadership, he did all the duties: he recruited players, helped build a complete team and, above all, maintained an extraordinary level for his age and the more than 60,000 minutes played in his career. His, in his maturity as a leader, went well beyond scoring. He only did it, when it was necessary (25.3 points, 49% from the field), but the rest was impressive because he did every little thing to win every night, especially making the rest play, being the leader in assists of the season (10.2) . In the playoffs, as always, he gave even more: 27.6 points, 10.2 recoveries and 8.7 goal passes in the bubble.

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It did not matter to him that many said that the crown did not belong to him, that the new stars, especially Kawhi Leonard and were better than him. In silence, he empowered his teammates – he achieved the necessary chemistry within a veteran team that showed resilience – and responded like nobody else when the pressure increased and the other figures could not. But, of course, his hunger is intact and he wants more. He knows that, with his physical, mental and technical level, the fifth ring is at his fingertips and even more so when he sees that the leadership, especially GM Rob Pelinka, continues to pull rabbits out of the hat. Despite the championship, the manager extended the contract to LeBron, renewed the other great figure (Anthony Davis) and reached into the team, improving it even more. Dennis Schroder (talented point guard with great scoring power), Montrezl Harrell (a physical beast that kills near the basket, who was taken out of his greatest enemy, the Clippers), Wesley Matthews (good defender and shooter) or Marc Gasol , the brilliant Spanish pivot who has just turned 36 years old, but has plenty of lucidity, defense, quality and experience to contribute to a team that is born as the clear favorite to repeat. In passing, he also renewed Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris and Kentavius ​​Caldwell Pope, three very valuable pieces. Those who left (Howard, McGee, Rondo and Avery Bradley) had clearly already completed their time on the team.

This is how the season starts: all against the Lakers. With few vacations (the shortest stretch between campaign: 71 days) and the shortest preseason in history. Of course, the need to keep the spirit and the business alive is imperative, although there is no audience – at least for now – and with 72 games – and not 82, like a lifetime -, seeking to shorten a season and thus give room to the Tokyo Olympics. And so, in this almost miraculous context that the NBA is being built in the midst of this crazy pandemic, they all go out looking to dethrone the Angelenos. And, above all, the King. As Jimmy Butler said, “If you want to win, you have to go through LeBron.”

The first ones who will have to pass through there are their Clippers neighbors, who play in the same stadium but cannot even be seen … The poor Angelenos – at some point they were, no longer with the new owner Steve Ballmer – have the superstar they need to aspire to unseat LeBron -Kawhi-, a second figure who disappeared in the last playoffs but has shown his credentials on both sides of the court -Paul George- and one of the most complete teams in the tournament. But the problem has to do with team chemistry, which was far from being the best in Orlando and that was an impossible burden to overcome, the same one that cost the DT the job. Can Tyronn Lue power what Doc Rivers couldn’t? On paper, the team takes a step backwards, because they lost in the transfer market, although they have added Serge Ibaka to cover the loss of Harrell, the Best Sixth Man of the last season …

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On the next step our beloved Nuggets depart. Of course, now with Facu Campazzo and now without Manu in the Spurs, the Argentines have turned to being fans of Denver, with the purchase of a TV package, a jersey and even a trip to Colorado. Each post that the team makes of Facu breaks all the metrics and triples up to that of the figures. But, of course, the Cordovan will pay some floor rights, he will have to adapt to playing fewer minutes, without a ball and in a basketball with style and even different rules. And, in a title candidate, no less. For now, his flashes of quality, courage and ambition allow everyone to give him a free hand, but it is true that he will have to adapt as quickly as possible to the role given, because the Nuggets need him to take another leap in quality. In the previous season, they had a very good regular phase and, above all, they exploded in the Orlando postseason, winning two series after being 1-3 and reaching the West final. Everything revolves around Jokic, the extremely talented Serbian who is today the best pivot in the NBA, with a group of perimeters led by Canadian Murray, with brilliant playoffs. Michael Malone, the manager, has seven other guards to build highly dynamic, versatile and scoring quintets. The Nuggets can be one of the teams that scores the most of the season, they will need to rebound and defend with consistency to be able to fight well at the top and, why not, dream of dethroning the Lakers.

Utah also has a stable, firm, talented core, with great defense and with more variations than before – Bogdanovic is back and they added Clarkson and Favors-. Houston, with Harden’s demands, is expected to implode and not be in the fight. It will be seen if Portland, with that fearsome Lillard-McCollum duo, manages to add defense and team stability – now with more bench – to go one step further. The Mavs will once again be a sensation team, but it is expected that more than being the team of the captivating Luka Doncic, who will seek the MVP in just his third season. The Warriors, with Steph Curry healthy and a very talented group – Oubre, Bazemore and No. 2 James Wiseman – will be in the fight even if they don’t have Klay Thompson, the devastating shooter who was seriously injured again. We’ll see what Popovich’s Spurs are for, although the Suns are looming, with youngsters on the rise and an elite signing like Chris Paul, who complete the playoff scene, especially after what they did in Orlando, in a squad. that, with the new play in system –four teams, from 7th to 10th – will define the last two tickets in each conference.

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In the East, the big news is the return of the great – he did not play all of last season due to the rupture of the Achilles tendon in June 2019 – to empower the Nets and the renewal of Giannis – he signed the largest contract of the history: $ 228 million for five years – the two-time regular-season MVP who decided to bet on winning with Milwaukee before taking the easy one and joining an all-star team. With the Greek, the Bucks start as favorites although both the power forward and the team must take a step forward, especially in the playoffs, when they become predictable when they see how rivals shrink spaces and do not allow Giannis to dominate as in the most relaxed regular phase. Miami Heat, with the Riley culture, Jimmy Butler in leader-star mode and a group very well baked by Spoesltra that now added Avery Bradley -another bulldog-, will seek to repeat its epic playoffs that allowed him to be the representative of the conference in the October definition against the Lakers.

The Celtics, who lost to Miami in the East final, are back on their own terms, without major acquisitions but with a solid and interesting base; We will see if with the mistakes learned. Philadelphia, now with Doc Rivers as manager and a very busy free agent market (it looked for shooters), will try to take that step forward as a team – in game and character – that allows it to support the enormous talent of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Oladipo’s Pacers, luckily, cannot be ruled out, although it is the Hawks, now with Italian Gallinari, Serbian Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo and Clint Capela joining a young group led by Trae Young, who promise to be an attractive surprise. . Of course, nobody forgets the Nets, now with Durant, Irving, Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan, who will undoubtedly make people talk, although it will be seen if more on the court or more outside. Talent to spare, now led by Steve Nash.

But, it is known, to win big you need more than that. And, if not, let LeBron say so, it took him years to get rid of his backpack of being a young wonder who “did not know how to win.” Today, with four rings and four Finals MVPs, he is sitting at another table. In that of the chosen ones, seeking to be able to discuss as equals with Michael Jordan himself. The idol of his childhood. No more no less. The King will be, once again, the great history of the NBA. (GG) (Infobae)

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