YOUR 2012-2013 LOS ANGELES LAKERS:
Personally, this is the most exciting Lakers season since 1996 (Shaq and Kobe’s first year). LA starts four future Hall-of-Famers, and these guys fit together beautifully. They fit together, I know they fit together, you know they fit together, and the NBA knows they fit together.
Here are my thoughts on the Lakers’ season, in handy-dandy list form:
1.) The Steve Nash Predicament: The Lakers instituted the Princeton offense, only LA’s new point guard has spent his entire career running the Steve Nash offense (and to much success). So where do I stand? I think the Princeton is a good thing (at least until I panic in a couple weeks). It’s easier to integrate stars into a system (see Triangle, circa 1992-2010), and I think Kobe and Pau are their best when bound to specific roles.
It helps that Mike Brown’s a complete and total offensive pushover. When Nash (the best pick and roll PG) decides it’s time to run a pick and roll with Dwight Howard (the best pick and roll big man), Brown won’t have the guts to disagree. If Nash can run the Nash offense when he wants, and the Princeton when he needs to, LA will be in good shape. So far, according to Brown, Nash has that freedom.
As much as people seem to be interested in Nash running the offense, it’s his shooting that will unlock doors for LA. For the past two seasons, the Lakers have had 2 of the top 5 post players in the league, and no hardware to show for it. That’s because the Lakers had no shooters to space the floor. If Nash does nothing but shoot well, LA will be a tough out.
What to Watch For: I promise you, during one game, Nash will shoot 7-9 from the floor, and 5-6 from 3PT, the Lakers will win by 25+ points, and it will be clear Los Angeles will be a buzzsaw every time Nash gets the chance to shoot and shoot well.
Also, keep your eye on end of game situations. Trust Nash to get himself, or someone else a good shot in close games. If Kobe’s dribbling 30 feet away, and firing fadeaway jumpers with two men draped on him…well, lets just say that’s sub-optimal for Nash and the team.
2.) Head Coach, Mike Brown: Anything short of an NBA title, and I think Mike Brown gets fired. The past two years, it was sort of understood that the Lakers window was closing, so Mike Brown avoided the glare. No longer.
WTWF: Watch LA huddles during timeouts. When you start seeing LA assistant Eddie Jordan, Kobe and Steve Nash dominating huddles in January, you can be sure the inmates are in control of the asylum.
3.) Who Shot Antawn Jamison?: Antawn Jamison looks shot. Done. Cooked. If he’s supposed to save the Lakers’ bench, get f***ing ready, Lakers fans. I’ve only seen a handful of preseason games, and preseason games admittedly mean nothing, but I know what I saw. Antawn Jamison is cooked.
WTWF: If I could pray to the basketball gods that Jamison be allowed to do one thing this season, I’d pray for his 3PT shot. If he shoots 38% or better from long distance, all of a sudden I’d stop yelling at him through my television.
4.) Where for art thou, Goudelock?: I probably just have a soft spot for the guy, but how can a guy who does this not earn a spot on a team that desperately needs good, quality outside shooting.
WTWF: If you couldn’t tell, the Lakers offense hangs on their outside shooting. Nash will be Nash, Kobe will be Kobe, Pau will be Pau, and Dwight will be Dwight. But if the Lakers shoot well, tell the rest of the league to buckle up. Jodie Meeks is clearly the candidate to do so.
5.) Best Buddies: I promise you by Christmas time, the Dwight Howard/Pau Gasol bromance will be in full swing. I can think of no better current player for Dwight to learn post moves from, but more than that, get ready for the Gasol lobs to D12.
WTWF: The Andrew Bynum meltdown in Philly. It’s coming. The hair’s long, the knees are bone bruised, and the guy’s already told everyone, and then proved, that basketball isn’t his life. I’m really rooting for him. I’m also a little worried.
6.) Enjoy Morris and Ebanks: …because they’ll be gone next year. I can’t see futures for either of them. I mean, with Ebanks, I’m positive. He has no discernible strength. Rumors out of the Summer say Darius Morris improved his jumpshot. He’ll certainly have a great teacher in Nash, but I just don’t see it. At best he could carve out another year or so as a low-wage back-up that the Lakers won’t get rid of because they don’t want to pay the luxury tax.
WTWF: When Nash gets injured, Morris will get some burn, and I fully expect it to be car wreck bad. Vacillating between Princeton and the P&R offense is a job for professionals.
7.) 50/50: Half of this season is on Dwight and half of it is on Kobe. You’re all sleeping on how good, how truly transformative Dwight Howard is in the game of basketball. His offensive game is incredibly explosive, doesn’t require set looks (which is good, because Kobe likes to shoot), and meshes perfectly with Steve Nash.
Don’t worry about the beauty of his post moves (which he’s working hard on), or his free throws (which assistant Chuck Person may have helped considerably). Just watch this man on the defensive end. He’s the closest thing to Bill Russell we’ve seen in the NBA since Bill Russell (I know that’s sacrilegious to Celtics fans, but I hate the Celtics anyways). In his first preseason game dressed in Laker gold, Howard blocked four shots, and altered no fewer than 4 more, resulting in misses. That’s eight extra possessions for the Lakers. When basketball games sometimes come down to one play, it’s good to know a guy like Howard can possibly get you eight more.
For basketball gods’ sake, the guy made Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and J.J. Redick an elite defensive team. The Lakers will be good on defense this year solely because of Dwight, and the Lakers haven’t been good on defense in years. When healthy, Howard is, by far and away the 3rd best player in the NBA, and making a run at second place.
The only problem is, asking Dwight to take care of the defense by his lonesome is asking a lot. It’d be nice to reward the “big fella.” A major tenet in basketball is “keep the big man happy.” That means give him some help on offense. Keep him engaged in the season. Let him have fun.
All of that rests in the hands of Kobe Bryant.
If Bryant relents, and cedes some of his power to the rest of his teammates, the sky’s the limit for these Lakers. No one in the history of NBA has ever been in a better position to right his own career wrongs.
Kobe’s a gunner. We all know it. That’s sort of what makes him great.
But Kobe has the chance to do what Shaquille O’Neal never did for Bryant - give the child prodigy room to shine. Kobe knows he left titles on the table when Shaq left. Now, it’s time to get those back.
What’s more, the Legend of Kobe Bryant will only swell more if he does. Right now, Kobe’s known for shooting at will, telling reporters this is “his team,” and for never ever thinking he’s wrong. If Bryant lets Dwight dominate basketball games, compliments him in a few post-game interviews, and truly gives Howard the keys to the Lakers’ car this season, Kobe can re-write his own history.
Lakers fans, and the media, would remember him for his benevolence. Kobe Bryant has the unique opportunity to go from “Ruthless Warrior” to the “Wise King.”
He has the ability. His game can adapt (see the 2001 NBA Playoffs). It will be his desire and maturity.
I think he can do it.
WTWF: Chemistry is about the little things. Is Kobe running on the floor to high five Dwight in timeouts? Is he lauding him in interviews? If he does those things, it will mean a lot to Dwight and this team.
8.) Health: Remember when Shaq used to come to camp overweight, and play himself into shape by the end of winter? Remember when the Lakers didn’t care about the regular season, and thought they’d “flip the switch” in the Playoffs? Ahhh, the good ‘ol days.
And it’s good to be back.
This whole season is all about the Playoffs. Nothing else matters. These Lakers are built to win NBA Championships in a very small window of two years. There’s an expiration date on this team. As a Lakers fan, I don’t care how many games they win, how many times Blake Griffin or LeBron James dunk on them, or which game I totally lose my cool and start shouting things like, “I hate this team!!! They’ll never win the title!!!”
If these Los Angeles Lakers are healthy in the Spring, they’ve got a good chance. And that’s all you can ask for.