Saturday, March 31, 2012

Passing of the Torch?

Two nights ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder came to LA and easily handled the Los Angeles Lakers-102-93. The younger, quicker Thunder wore out the aging Lake Show with 12 fast break points in the third quarter, pretty much ending the game there. The young legs of Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant were too much against the Lakers Big Three of young Andrew Bynum, aging but still quite effective Pau Gasol, and aging but still All-NBA First Team Kobe Bryant.
Yes, this was just one game. Yes, the Lakers just got younger and quicker with the acquistion of point guard Ramon Sessions. Yes, the Thunder just got a bit older with the recent signing of former Laker Derek Fisher.
Still, one couldn't help but see this game as a passing of the torch, a changing of the guard. The Lakers huffed and puffed with Ron Artest/Metta World Peace, Kobe, and Gasol, while the Thunder sprinted past them with Westbrook, Harden, Durant, and their youthful legs. While Kobe struggled to even get a shot, going an ugly 7-25 in the process, Westbrook and Durant made it look too easy in scoring a combined and smooth 57 points.
It looks to this observer that the Thunder, with an average age of 26.2, have paid their dues in losing to the Lakers two years back in the playoffs and to the Mavericks last year, with both the Lakers and Mavs going on to win the NBA Championship. Even the 26. 2 average age is a bit misleading, as 34 year Nazr Mohammed barely plays, and the team's "Big Four," which includes athletic big man Serge Ibaka, has an average age of 22.5.
Youth has been served so far in the regular season. Look for it to win out in the postseason, too.
Then again, with Kobe Bryant a slightly-different player than a few years ago, but arguably almost as productive, is it lack of talent or aging that has brought the Lakers down? Or are the two qualities one and the same?

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