Posted Nov 12 2010 11:06AM
Remember when some folks thought Miami might break the NBA record for wins? Well, to paraphrase LeBron James, the "72-win talk" has taken its talents to Venice Beach.
Yes, out on the Other Coast, where an NBA team has actually done something meaningful to warrant such optimism, the two-time defending champion Lakers will certainly generate some single-season record discussion, if they haven't already.
The Lakers are stacked and loaded and winning fairly easily here in the early going. And just wait until Kobe Bryant starts warming up, not to mention Andrew Bynum.
Not only did they do a number on the NBA the last two years, but all the key faces are back, and some newcomers are giving the Lakers a dynamic and dynastic look. We won't hand them the trophy right now, not in November, because weird things can happen in the postseason. But in terms of the regular season, who says they can't win that title? And going away at that?
Well, you'd suspect the only people who can stop the Lakers from erasing the Bulls from the books are the Lakers. Maybe it's not such a priority for them, although we'd love to see them break the 70-win mark with a week left in the season and then run the topic by them again.
Phil Jackson, who led the Bulls to the record, said he can't imagine doing it again with a different team. Jackson was actually pretty blunt: "It's not going to happen."
It's not that Jackson doesn't believe the Lakers are capable of that. He just doesn't think the circumstances will favor it, citing travel from the West Coast, the tough schedule, and the potential for injuries.
"Everything has to break perfect for that to happen," Jackson said.
Well let's see: Travel from the West Coast? It's not so bad. It's not like the Lakers are constantly criss-crossing the country. And besides, life in the air must be rough when you're being whisked around by a private jet with all the first-class comforts. Sorry, Phil, not buying that excuse.
The tough schedule? Actually, the Western Conference is weaker than it has been in recent years. The Lakers do play the Timberwolves, Clippers, Rockets, Kings and Warriors a fair number of times, don't they?
Injuries? Well, yes, that's always an issue. Except the Lakers are dealing with injuries right now -- Bynum's -- and still going strong. Anything short of Bryant or Pau Gasol on crutches won't hamper the Lakers too much.
Jackson added the Lakers don't have the same dogged defense as the '95-96 Bulls, and added -- get this -- that Miami seems most equipped to get the record.
"If they stay together, they have a good chance," Jackson said. "They're a very talented team."
Evidently, Jackson means Miami may eventually get the record in a year or three. It may not be this season, considering the Heat have lost four of their first nine games.
What the record really comes down to, besides talent, is the motivation to do it. Erasing the Bulls will take a collective effort from ownership, management, coaches and players. Everyone must be on the same page with regard to the potential for injury, and also the burnout that can result from playing the starters deep in games, especially in April when the conference title may be long since wrapped up.
On that Bulls team, Jackson wasn't particularly keen on the record, nor was Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf. But Michael Jordan never met a challenge he didn't want to conquer, and so when Jordan, the ultimate competitor, put the record in his sights, the rest of the Bulls bought in.
So if Kobe wants the record, the Lakers will want the record.
Thursday, before the Lakers faced the Nuggets, Kobe didn't want any part of the discussion, telling reporters in jest: "Whatever Phil says."
Given the fragility of Bynum, who never seems to finish the postseason in one healthy piece, and the fact Kobe has had three knee procedures, the understandable goal of the Lakers is to keep their main folks fresh and frisky. If a pursuit of the record means putting any of them at risk, it's not worth it.
If there's a team that should go for the record, it's the one in Miami, becuase even if the Heat come up just short, they'd at least have a big say in who wins the conference title. If that happens, it means that LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh finally will have figured out how to play in harmony.
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