The calm before the NBA storm



The last two postseasons could not have gone any better for me. As a Los Angeles Lakers fan, things have been pretty good.

The Lakers have been able to capture two NBA titles over the Orlando Magic and the despised Boston Celtics the past two seasons.

During those playoff runs, I had no doubt who the best team was, except for a couple of quarters during the 2010 Finals when Kobe Bryant could not shoot the basketball into the ocean if he was standing in a boat.

But this year, I have noticed a true evolution in the NBA. Kobe has grown from a guy who was the face of the NBA, to a guy who has become the elder statesman. He has become the player that the “young guys” are chasing.

This is a league that belongs to LeBron James, Dewayne Wade, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard — the next generation.

Players like Kobe, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will soon have to step aside and fade away, like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson once did.

Will this be the season that the new generation of NBA superstars takes the title reign from Kobe and the Lakers? My fandom and my mind are telling me no, but my heart is feeling something much different.

I like the Lakers to win the Western Conference, but teams like Oklahoma City, with their young legs and young, star players Durant and Russell Westbrook, along with playoff veteran and capable post presence Kendrick Perkins are extremely dangerous.

The West is going to be won by one of these two teams. For 2011, I think the Lakers will have enough to hold on for one more season. I say the Lakers win over the Thunder 4-3 in the West finals. I don’t want to tell you how I think 2012 will go.

As for the Eastern Conference, the pick to win the conference will be a little more difficult.

But when it comes to the NBA, when in doubt, choose the team with the most talent. That team has to be the Miami Heat.

As much as I despise James, I equally respect Wade. And I will say this about the Heat, as much as they struggled this season, they are still the most dangerous team in the NBA.

When I watched the Heat play live at The Palace back in February, I noticed one thing about their game: turning turnovers into points.

This is a team that can turn a steal into a bucket quicker than I can blink. It’s like nothing I have ever seen before. By the time Wade has a steal, he is launching an ally-oop to James.

For this reason, I see the Heat capturing the East crown. Because when LeBron fails in the clutch, Wade will be there to take over when need be.

So the Lakers and the Heat in the Finals, and it will be a good one.

The Heat swept the season series 2-0 over Los Angeles, and I would not be surprised if they did it again in the Finals.

The Heat match-up well with the Lakers. They have enough size to compete with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and with James and Wade, Kobe could become a nonfactor in a hurry.

But as long as my team is in the Finals, I am going to pick them. I see the Lakers winning the NBA championship four games to two.

So there it is, My Finals prediction for 2011. With a lockout pending for 2012, maybe I won’t have to worry about the Lakers defending that crown for a while.


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