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    September 16

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ON THE BALL: Always bet on Lakers

JUSTIN MARVILLE, justinmarville@nationnews.com

Added 23 August 2018


Sometimes the simplest answer is the right one. And the easy thing to do right now is to say the Lumber Company Lakers will win it all every year.

Yeah, you can’t get me to bet against these Husbands men anytime soon. Not after the champs capped this ridiculous run they’re on with yet another of those Premier League titles that they’re always in contention for.

I mean, I almost feel embarrassed now for previously thinking this season was going to be a wide-open one among the top four teams.

But with all due respect to Warriors, Station Hill and Pinelands, there was absolutely no real reason for me not to feel safe putting my money down on the champs to repeat.

Just look at their roster for starters.

Lakers are so deep and talented that they started this season with a pair of six-foot-nine professional players in big men John and Kregg Jones and put them alongside national players Keefe Birkett and Mark Bridgeman all while another six-foot-nine pogo stick (Ricardo Jemmott) was coming off the bench.

Now if that isn’t depth, then consider they also had Grenadian national forward Jehu Lafeuille and collegiate point Chiamaka Browne on that same squad.

Now granted they all didn’t play together this year but it sure must be nice to be able to replace Kregg Jones with another long and athletic national player from a different country.

And Lakers always had no fewer than three senior Barbados players on the active roster at any point during the season.

Sure, a certain team from Princess Royal will argue it has the ability to start five national players and still bring two more men of similar talent off the pine.

But Pinelands have a lot of overlapping skills on that squad and even more shoot-first players who don’t fit into any specified roles.

Lakers have no such issues though, as every single player knows and understands his specific function on the team while their star players have skillsets that complement each other.

Take, for example, John Jones, who scores predominantly with his back to the basket around the paint and theoretically doesn’t step on the shoes of a jump shooter like Birkett.

Even Lafeuille and Jemmott can play alongside John because they are natural face-up forwards that want to take jumpers, attack off the drive or run out in transition.

Browne and Bridgeman then perfectly balance out the side as natural ball-handling playmakers who score by punching the lane and finishing at the rim while draining the occasional jumper.

What makes it even worse is that no team can match them for size.

They certainly don’t have nearly the same athleticism, but Lakers can almost rival certain NBA teams for length when you put out a line-up featuring either of the Joneses (6’9”), Lafeuille (6’9”), Bridgeman (6’5”), Browne (6’4”) and Birkett (6’0”).

And that still leaves another Jones, Jemmott (6’9”) and Andre Boadu (6’8”) to come.

As if that wasn’t enough, then naturally the league’s most talented unit just had to be led by its  best coach.

I’m certain Francis Williams must be one of only two men that consistently run anything offensively in the top flight, but on top of that he always has his teams prepared to play whoever is in front of them.

I mean Jamar “Spanner” Headley went from the MVP front-runner against Pinelands in the first round of the play-offs to a man who barely averaged double digits on less than 40 per cent shooting versus Lakers during the finals.

When Warriors switched from man to zone on defence to commit more bodies to John Jones in the paint, then Williams simply adjusted by stacking Birkett and Bridgeman one side to force Warriors to pick their poison.

Essentially Williams started Browne with the ball on the other side of the play and let him run downhill towards the middle with an on-ball pick, which would either collapse the other guard at the top or give Browne a free lane to the rim.

Warriors obviously chose to collapse, thus leading to a kick-out to Bridgeman, who had the option to punch the lane further, hit Birkett in the corner for three or dump the ball into Jones.

Yeah, I’m not sure how I’d defend that either.

Not that I need to get so technical when I can use mere history to make my case.

I don’t mean to sound like the King of Stats here but the numbers show me that Lakers have made the finals ten times in the last 13 seasons, including a run where they contested five straight championship series between 2010 and 2014.

They’ve only missed the play-offs twice in that span while capturing six league crowns.

Sounds like a simple enough reason to bet on them winning next year, right?

Sometimes the right answers are the easiest ones. (JM)


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