Lakers rewriting history books
In this week’s ON THE BALL edition, NATION basketball writer Justin Marville continues his weekly review of the Premier League.
HAS THERE EVER BEEN such a run of consistency in basketball’s top flight as the one we’re currently seeing from these Lumber Company Lakers?
Sure, they’re not as dominant as the Bulls’ of the late 1990s, or even as flashy as Cosmo Edwards’ Pinelands, but I’m also certain those squads also never made nine successive trips to the postseason.
Neither can they claim to have advanced to seven title-game seriesin an eight-year span that has included four successive league finals appearances.
Well, such is Lakers’ current hallmark of excellence that has seen the men from Husbands become the gold standard of local basketball during the 2000s with a highly efficient offence at the centre of four league crowns (2007, 2008, 2011, 2013) in seven years.
Yes, Station Hill has a near similar run of success, having won four times in eight years while contesting six championship series between 2004 and 2010.
But they also missed two of the last three postseasons (2011, 2013) – years that happen to coincide with Lakers’ titles. And then there’s that small issue of their 2007 and 2008 championship defeats to . . . you guessed it, those Lumber Company Lakers.
It’s almost to the point where you can just pencil Lakers in for league final at the start of the season and take an educated guess as to who their opponents will be. That’s certainly how I do it.
Come to think of it, can you see a scenario where they aren’t playing in their eighth league final next year? Yeah, me neither. They probably can’t either.
• As we’re on the topic of predicting Lakers’ success, how could I not have seen this sweeping run through the play-offs coming?
I mean I did pick them to win it all in the February 27 edition of this column, but in the name of full disclosure, somewhere down the line I began to believe this competition was so wide open that Cougars, St John’s or Pinelands actually had a chance.
Maybe it was right after the 102-100 shocker against Cougars, or when they lost back to back games by dropping the next contest to Warriors.
Maybe, though, I should’ve seen Lakers steamroll through the rest of the competition to end the regular season by winning four of the last five games by an average margin of 24 points – including a 114-85 whipping of Cougars.
So the subsequent series sweeps of those same Cougars and then Pinelands really shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering Lakers were already entering as favourites before they went on that hot streak.
I guess there’s something to be said about second-guessing yourself. Or worse yet, second-guessing these Lakers.
• So if the debate over the league’s best team has finally been put to bed, maybe it’s time we start doing the same about its best player.
Could there really be any doubt now that Andre Lockhart has blown by Jeremy Gill as the sport’s pre-eminent player, just like he did every hapless Pinelands and Cougars defender sent his way in the play-offs?
Maybe if this was just a one-off occasion where Lockhart totally outplayed his national team counterpart on local basketball’s biggest stage, then I might be able to give Gill a pass, or reason he was simply on a less talented side.
But this is now twice in three years – with Gill playing on two different squads – that Lockhart has completely dominated his matchup on both ends of the floor.
And this most recent instance is even worse than the first time as Lockhart averaged over 27 points a game following historic 33- and 34-point performances in Games 1 and 2 respectively while taking on Gill as his primary defensive assignment.
To be fair, Gill was plagued by an ongoing hip injury, but that doesn’t explain why he did not dare even put the ball on the floor when his opposite number was guarding him.
Then, on the other side of the ball, he flat out refused to mark Lockhart while leaving the less experienced and much smaller Daniel Lovell, Justin Maloney and Rico Thorpe to be put in the torture chamber that was Lockhart’s offensive arsenal.
This debate, though, is probably far from over for the rest of the basketball world, and I’m quite certain there will be a lot more high-profile matchups in the future for Gill to make his case again.
But as a friend constantly tells me, there are none so blind as those who will not see. And I surely know what I’m looking at right now.