Oct 21, 2020

The Bubble Champions: LA Lakers

It was smooth sailing for the Lakers from that point on. They just had to hurdle the Denver Nuggets and the Heat, both young teams who couldn’t simply match the depth and playoff experience of the Lakers crew.

And the Lakers legacy continues. After a few years of playoff drought, the Los Angeles Lakers, behind the efforts of Finals Most Valuable Player and arguably the Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T.), Lebron James, got the first crown up for grabs this new decade and they did it in dominant fashion in a 4-2 series victory against the Miami Heat, a team that overachieved in this interrupted season.

The Lakers’ win, in my opinion, was cemented when the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers, both powerhouses and heavy favourites to make it all the way, got eliminated in the semi-finals. It was smooth sailing for the Lakers from that point on. They just had to hurdle the Denver Nuggets and the Heat, both young teams who couldn’t simply match the depth and playoff experience of the Lakers crew.

Veteran Rajon Rondo also lived up to his billing as “Playoff Rondo” adding stability and defensive tenacity for LA throughout the playoffs. Anthony Davis also lived up to his promise as the premiere sidekick to LBJ. The motley crew assembled by the Lakers this year consisted of playoff-tested veterans in Lebron, Rondo, Dwight Howard, Danny Green, JR Smith, Markieff Morris, and Javale McGee. Playoff newbies Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell- Pope and Kyle Kuzma also added quality minutes to the Lakers cause.

It’s the first championship for head coach Frank Vogel and lead assistant Jason Kidd. With Lebron still under contract for the next two years and with Anthony Davis expected to re-up this offseason, the Lakers are expected to make it back to back next year. They will most likely beef up the roster via free agency or trade so watch out how General Manager Rob Pelinca maneuvers in the offseason. A Bradley Beal addition will definitely add more color to an already formidable nucleus. Is it a dynasty in the making? If Lebron delivers two more rings in the course of his tenure with the Lakers, he would slam the GOAT discussion even further home. If that happens over the next two seasons, LBJ could possibly wear ring number 6 at age 37. Quite a feat for such a generational talent.

And the PBA Gets Going

And our very own Philippine Basketball Association bubble season is on! The first game was quite a contest with TnT Tropang Giga getting the better of the Alaska Aces in the season “reopener” held at the Angeles University Foundation gym last Sunday. The first half showed some form of rust as expected with a few turnovers here and there, none more exemplified than a breakaway play by TnT veteran Troy Rosario who intended to finish with a two-handed slam but his legs gave way on the attempt and instead settled for a two-handed lay in.

Vic Manuel of the Aces seemed a step slower but bulkier on his return to action while TnT court general and Asia’s best point guard Jayson Castro was still a tad slower since we know his penetrations could more often than not end up as an and-one.

The night, however, was a showcase of skill for RR Pogoy of the Tropang Giga. Starting slow in the first quarter, Pogoy erupted for a game-high 45 points to rally TnT for the win.

Learning from the success of the NBA bubble season, PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial conceived a plan to mirror the NBA by opening the local version of the bubble in Clark Pampanga. Yours truly anticipated that the bubble can succeed in Clark in an earlier article this year simply because of the availability of hotels in the area and the abundance of potential practice and game venues in Pampanga, a hotbed of basketball in the country.

I am just glad that the PBA is back. It shows that we, as a country, are moving to the right direction of bringing life back to our new normal. Getting the PBA back in the limelight will allow other sporting events to follow suit, albeit, in a controlled environment considering that the covid 19 pandemic is still out there. I think the lessons we learned forced us to be more conscious about wearing masks, face shields, and distancing ourselves from each other especially when outside and this awareness and adherence to safety protocols is key in achieving close to back to normal life.

Now that the NBA season is over, focus shifts to the PBA. Games are scheduled every day and we project an All Filipino champion by December. It’s a short single round sprint and then the playoffs. Once the PBA season is done, we focus our attention on how we can re-open other sports including the collegiate varsity leagues.

If a vaccine gets certified by December, I believe other sporting outfits can start practicing in February with games starting in March. Yes, things are looking a bit bright but we all need to do our part to make sure of our personal safety and of others. Stay safe, everyone!

(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)

 

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