Oct 15, 2012, 10:00 AM EST
Last Season: Failure. For a team that measures success in terms of championships, especially when it has enough talent on paper to compete at that level, 2012 just wasn’t good enough.
The Lakers struggled with depth and exited the playoffs in the second round for the second straight year, this time to a younger, more athletic, and more explosive Oklahoma City Thunder squad. This came after going a longer-than-planned seven games in the first round against a talented, yet inexperienced Nuggets team that shouldn’t have been able to push L.A. that far.
Key Departures: There were departures, though not many close observers of this Lakers team would choose the word “key” to describe them. Ramon Sessions departed for a bigger role in Charlotte, Matt Barnes switched to the less glamorous locker room down the Staples Center hallway, Josh McRoberts is now in Orlando, and Troy Murphy is just gone.
The Lakers did, of course, lose their All-Star center from a season ago in Andrew Bynum, but they acquired a replacement whom they hope will be one of the keys to returning to championship relevance.
Key Additions: Here’s where things start to get interesting. L.A. helped end our long national Dwightmare by trading for one of the game’s top-five players in Dwight Howard, giving up Bynum in the process. Howard for Bynum on its own is an improvement on paper, but not one large enough to tilt the championship odds immediately in the Lakers’ favor. The acquisition of Steve Nash, however — a two-time MVP, a master conductor of the offense and one of the game’s best shooters — might have done exactly that.
Three keys to the Lakers season:
1) Kobe thriving without the ball in his hands: Nash is one of the best point guards in the game, but to do what he does best, he’ll need the ball to open possessions. With Howard and Pau Gasol on the floor at the same time, there should be a number of successful offensive possessions where Bryant doesn’t even see the basketball. Obviously, this will be a major adjustment. Will Bryant choose to adapt to the new offense — one that, much like the Triangle, features motion and multiple options at every turn — or will he resist and revert to old habits of forcing isolation situations with the shot clock winding down, while his teammates stand around and watch? There’s a time for that, certainly, but with all of the weapons on this year’s roster, those situations should be the exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself.
2) Will the bench be enough? A starting five featuring Bryant, Howard, Nash, Gasol, and Metta World Peace should provide plenty of punch on both sides of the ball to win on most nights. But regular season achievements are not why this core was assembled, nor will finishing the regular season with the league’s best record mean anything if the starters are gassed for the playoffs. Bryant and Nash need to save themselves somewhat for the postseason, and limiting their minutes will only be possible if the bench doesn’t blow huge leads which force the team’s veteran stars to sub back in early in the fourth quarters of games which should have already been decided.
3) The correct utilization of Pau Gasol: From a numbers standpoint, Gasol appeared to be every bit as effective as he’d been in his seasons in L.A. that resulted in championships. But to those who watched the majority of the team’s contests, Gasol seemed uncomfortable, under-utilized, and out of place in head coach Mike Brown’s attempt at an offense.
The Lakers need to find a way to maximize Gasol’s talents, and the new Princeton offense that the team is implementing this season should go a long way in doing so. Gasol has great court awareness and is able to make the smart pass, but is also a deft scorer — both on the low block, and from mid-range distance on the perimeter. The team needs to recognize this, and perhaps watch some film of the gold medal game of this past summer’s Olympics to truly see what a force Gasol can be when given the right opportunities.
What Lakers fans should fear: Two words: Mike Brown. L.A.’s head coach used the lockout-shortened season as a constant excuse last year, lamenting the lack of practice time available for him to get his new systems installed. Well, no such excuse will be available this season, as Brown has had all summer and a full training camp to design and implement sets which will maximize his team’s talents.
The team added former NBA head coaches in Eddie Jordan and Bernie Bickerstaff to assist Brown, who has always been described as a defense-first coach. If the defense is top-five in the league, that’s great. But last year’s Lakers were middle-of-the-pack defensively, and the offense never gained the necessary cohesion to contend deep into the postseason. With all of the talent assembled for the 2012-13 run, the blame will undoubtedly fall on Brown’s shoulders if he’s unable to bring this group to the level of champions.
Prediction: Dwight Howard is an upgrade over Andrew Bynum, but the basketball IQ and shooting prowess of Steve Nash is what pushes this team over the top. Anyone predicting anything other than a trip to the Finals for this stacked Lakers squad is being delusional at worst, or contrarian at best. The Thunder return essentially all of their important pieces, and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be waiting in the East. But the amount of talent in the Lakers’ starting lineup is too much to dismiss, and they should ultimately take home the title if things go anywhere near as planned.
Dec 11, 2013, 10:28 PM EST
Jeff Van Gundy is a lead analyst for ESPN, and would normally have been the color commentator on the national broadcast of the Knicks-Bulls contest aired on ESPN Wednesday night. But due to a complicated set of circumstances, Van Gundy didn’t participate. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today has the details: ESPN executives and analyst Jeff…
Dec 11, 2013, 9:03 PM EST
Chris Paul finding DeAndre Jordan for an alley-oop slam should be simply another chapter in the ongoing Lob City saga that the Clippers players have no interest in embracing. But whether the end result is a dunk or something else entirely, it seems destined to end up on highlight reels nonetheless. Early on in the…
Dec 11, 2013, 7:46 PM EST
Carmelo Anthony has been with Jordan Brand for 10 years now, and as he explains in the video clip above, there’s a nod to the past within the design of his latest signature shoe, the Melo M10. From the official release: “If you see this shoe from afar, the chrome statement piece is the first…
Dec 11, 2013, 7:23 PM EST
We told you this was coming and now a real has been reached: D.J. Augustin is about to be a Chicago Bulls. Augustin cleared waivers on Wednesday and has reached a deal as a free agent with Chicago, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Augustin needs to pass a physical with the Bulls on Thursday.…
Dec 11, 2013, 6:55 PM EST
We told you already Justin Timberlake was in Indianapolis last night, sitting courtside to watch the Pacers beat the Heat then playing a little H-O-R-S-E with Paul George. As an in-arena promotion, the Pacers have a bit where Danny Granger sings a long with a song in his headphones — and he can’t sing —…
Dec 11, 2013, 5:43 PM EST
Omer Asik wants to get traded. He’s said that since this summer, but it hasn’t happened as Rockets GM Daryl Morey isn’t going to move until he thinks he has a good deal. That’s not fast enough for Asik, who made a move and changed agents to one known for helping guys get moved. So…
Dec 11, 2013, 4:37 PM EST
In the latest edition of PBT Extra, Kay Adams asks about the Pacers win over the Heat Tuesday — I don’t read much into any regular season meeting between these games. That said, I still stand by my pick of the Pacers to win the NBA title this year. Then we shift our focus to…
Dec 11, 2013, 4:12 PM EST
Dwight Howard improved after after the All-Star break last season – before All-Star break: 16.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game; after All-Star break: 18.4 points and 13.6 rebounds per game – and the reason is no secret: His back got healthier. But that wasn’t the only factor. Howard told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com he…
Dec 11, 2013, 3:39 PM EST
The Charlotte Bobcats’ outlook is changing. When they signed Al Jefferson this summer, the theory was they would rather be pedestrianly bad rather than historically bad – even if that meant lower lottery odds. I argued Charlotte should go all-in to be totally bad for another season, and that pulling in itself in opposite directions…
Dec 11, 2013, 2:36 PM EST
The Warriors need big-man depth. Festus Ezeli has been out all season. Jermaine O’Neal and Draymond Green are banged up. Marreese Speights can’t gain Mark Jackson’s trust. Andre Iguodala is injured, too, and although he mostly plays on the wing, his absence the number of minutes he and Harrison Barnes can soak up as a…
Dec 11, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
From the frivolous lawsuit file here at PBT… A Clippers fan is suing he team for $5 million claiming they are spamming his phone with unwanted texts. TMZ got ahold of the lawsuit and has some details. The guy behind the lawsuit is Ari Friedman — who claims he went to a game at Staples…
Dec 11, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
In case you needed a good laugh today — Jason Kidd says he is reading the “reports” that reassigned assistant coach Lawrence Frank is writing. That’s what he told the New York Post. “I’ve been reading the reports [Frank is filing], and that’s as far as it’s going.” Riiiight. Now, if it the reports read…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:41 PM EST
That’s bloody brilliant. It’s my new favorite NBA Christmas video. The Bulls had kept the band together to make one more run at a title with Derrick Rose leading them, but when Rose went down that dream was dashed and it was time to talk retooling the roster. You can bet Luol Deng will be…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:08 PM EST
Boston fans felt jilted by Doc Rivers — they thought he would stay with them through the pain of rebuilding, instead he took off for the hot young thing in Los Angeles. Outside Boston few blamed him, in Boston fans felt dumped. Rivers kept saying it was mutual, Celtics fans were having none of it.…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:44 AM EST
.@Paul_George24 and @jtimberlake playing H-O-R-S-E now. Notice coach Vogel and Burke watching in the corner. http://t.co/fThtkA6AXb— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) December 11, 2013 If you watched the Pacers come-from-behind win over the Heat Tuesday night you probably saw the shots of Justin Timberlake in the crowd. Somehow he was able to swing court side seats, hope…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:49 AM EST
Kyrie Irving just hasn’t been himself this season — his shot has been off and with that the entire Cavaliers offense has been easier to defend. But nothing can help a guy out of a slump like facing the Knicks “defense.” Irving was able to get the rim but the key is he finished —…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:04 AM EST
Paul Pierce returned to the Nets lineup on Tuesday after missing the last four games with a broken bone in his hand. But he wasn’t in his usual spot in the team’s starting lineup. Facing his former Boston Celtics, Pierce came off the bench for just the fourth time in his storied career. And his head…
Dec 11, 2013, 9:31 AM EST
Indiana got the win over Miami on Tuesday, in a game the Pacers talked up a lot more beforehand than the defending champs cared to in advance of an early-December contest. LeBron James brought the intensity early by shutting down Paul George for the game’s first 12 minutes, and scored his first basket of the…
Dec 11, 2013, 8:44 AM EST
Kobe Bryant is back on the court for the Lakers — and with a huge contract that will keep him the highest paid player in the NBA for two more seasons after this one. In the latest edition of the PBT podcast myself and Eyton Shander of NBC Sports Radio welcome in Kevin Ding of…
Dec 11, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
After watching two of the league’s best starting lineups duke it out in Indiana, let’s check in on the best and worst lineups around the league so far this season. Best Net Efficiency Rating (minimum 150 minutes) Houston: Patrick Beverley-James Harden-Chandler Parsons-Terrence Jones-Dwight Howard Net efficiency is the difference between a team’s offensive rating and…
- Report: D.J. Augustin reaches deal with Chicago Bulls 1
- PBT Extra: Talking Pacers win over Heat; Aldridge vs. Howard showdown 8
- Kidd says he is reading Frank’s “reports” as details of Nets coaching mess come public 12
- The Extra Pass: The league’s leading lineups; plus Tuesday’s recaps 9
- Tuesday night NBA Grades: Kobe plays pretty well, Suns’ backcourt plays better 16