The Los Angeles Lakers welcome wagon has been busy, greeting Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to make it potentially one of the best teams in history.
NBA: Kobe Bryant to play with a dream team
Bittersweet is the dousing of the Olympic flame. Bitter, because a spellbinding sporting spectacle has concluded. Sweet, because the first bell is sounded for football season in America.
An added bonus with Sunday's closing ceremony: the end of incessant references to basketball's 1992 Dream Team. My problem is not so much the worshipful treatment, which was wholly deserving, but the designation.
Should not "Team" be reserved for athletes who assemble for longer than eight games in one tournament?
You know, like the one that received the finishing touches last week. If not quite a Dream Team, the Los Angeles Lakers have the quintessential quintet for NBA's opening tip-off.
The capstone was Dwight Howard, a once beloved NBA poster child whose posters had become dartboards with his recent onset of temporary insanity. Now that he has moved from the city best known for Disney World (Orlando) to the home of Disneyland (Southern California), let the debate commence. Not whether Howard's "Superman" nickname should be replaced by the Disney character "Goofy" but whether the Lakers' starting five is the grandest in a generation.
Calm down, Miami Heat.
LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh might flatten all comers in three-on-three.
But Miami's line-up last season was filled out by Mario Chalmers, who would begin games on the bench with many teams, and a revolving cast of semi-anonymous characters at centre.
The Lakers welcome wagon has been busy, greeting Steve Nash before Howard. Nash and Kobe Bryant comprise a future Hall of Fame backcourt. Howard will follow them into the hallowed Hall if he continues apace and wins a title or two, which has become a likely scenario. Stir in forwards Pao Gasol and Metta World Peace (known to earthlings as Ron Artest), and every starter has engaged in an All-Star game. Four decades have passed since a continuing line-up was similarly decorated.
Honours alone hardly convey the supernaturalness of this bunch, with an amalgam of abilities never before seen.
Start with Bryant. He is occasionally brilliant on offence, and downright strangulating as a stopper, 10 times included on the All-Defence Team.
There is Nash, an artist in trainers, tailoring the point guard position to his heretofore unseen skill set: a phenomenal three-point shooter and a passer who serves the ball to teammates on a silver platter.
Howard is a magnificent rebounder and shot-swatter who scores plenty given his offensive limitations. There is no better fit to the lineage of Laker centres established by Wilt, Kareem and Shaq.
Gasol is the most exquisite passing big man of his era, and a scorer to boot. He nearly led Spain to the Olympic gold medal over Team USA.
The former Mr Artest is the consummate role player, a demonic defender and hustle guy whose whacked-out persona is worth tolerating. All we are saying is give Peace a chance.
To find a comparable five, set the dial on the time travel machine to the mid-1980s. For two seasons, the Lakers broke huddle with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, AC Green and Byron Scott. Boston were blessed for one year with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge. By one measure, the Knicks of 1972/73 – Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley and Dave DeBusschere - will never be surpassed. All five are Famers.
Artest/Peace will enter the Hall only by buying a ticket. But, as a collective, these Laker starters are the best in a quarter-century – a legitimate dream team.
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