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.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:35 AM EST
Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wondering how you could read a novel in 90 minutes, well, there’s an app for that… Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns. If all you think Gerald Green can do is dunk, you need to watch the tape from Thursday night. It may have been true…
Mar 7, 2014, 2:39 AM EST
Adidas and the NBA will tell you that the sleeved jerseys are selling faster than they had projected, which is why you are seeing more of them (including the “Latin Nights” series of games, that are going on) . All-Star weekend commissioner Adam Silver said math showed that shooting percentages were almost identical when players…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:40 PM EST
In the first meeting of the season between the Heat and the Spurs, Miami had little trouble securing victory in the Finals rematch, in large part due to the fact that the Spurs were cobbling together a lineup that didn’t entirely feature the team’s best players. The rematch of the rematch, however, saw the Spurs…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:21 PM EST
Plenty of teams are rolling out throwback jerseys these days, but the ones the Raptors are planning for next season may be some of the more highly-anticipated. Toronto will wear the team’s original “Dino” jerseys for select games during the 2014-15 season, according to an official release. “We are excited to bring back a piece…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:14 PM EST
Zydrunas Ilgauskas will have his jersey retired in Cleveland this weekend, and his former teammate with the highest league-wide profile will be in attendance — despite the implications that many will attempt to ascribe to that gesture of personal support. LeBron James will be there when the Cavaliers raise Big Z’s jersey to the rafters,…
Mar 6, 2014, 8:01 PM EST
Dwight Howard returned to Orlando as a member of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, and as part of the Magic’s 25th anniversary season, they played a video tribute to Howard between the first and second periods. Plenty of fans let their disapproval be heard, and boos rained down on Howard as the video began. Howard…
Mar 6, 2014, 6:55 PM EST
And in some very surprising news, a college basketball coach supports the college basketball system. Larry Brown brings some credibility to this — he is the only coach in history to win an NCAA title (1988 Kansas) and an NBA title (2004 Detroit) and is remains one of the great teachers of the game. He’s…
Mar 6, 2014, 6:02 PM EST
If you ask league executives, pretty much everyone expects a 2017 lockout. They see the owners putting in the groundwork now for another work stoppage in three years and most people see it as inevitable. The only question is how long it lasts and if it costs games. Three years from now, the summer of…
Mar 6, 2014, 4:28 PM EST
I’ll be honest, I don’t really remember the Shaq Fu video game. What I do know is that people didn’t really like it. Which is putting it kindly. So Shaq is trying to do a sequel. Of course. Dan Devine at Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie has the details. O’Neal and his partners at Big Deez…
Mar 6, 2014, 3:32 PM EST
Suns rookie Alex Len is the only current Ukrainian on an NBA roster. Ankle injuries combined with surprisingly good play from the Suns existing front line (Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee, the Morris twins) have kept him on the bench much of the season. However Thursday night he is going to get the start against the…
Mar 6, 2014, 2:34 PM EST
If you want to beat the best, you need to learn from the best. Paul George wants to beat the best, and right now the best is LeBron James. LeBron may be the most physically gifted player in the game (arguably ever) but he also has maybe the best basketball mind in the game. Team…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:49 PM EST
We told you last week to expect this and now it is a reality: Royce White is now a member of the Sacramento Kings. The Kings announced Wednesday the signing of White to a 10-day contract. He was immediately assigned to the Kings D-League affiliate Reno Bighorns. White was the No. 22 pick of the…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:34 PM EST
You know what Tupac Shakur is doing right now? Having lunch with Elvis, Jim Morrison and Andy Kaufman. In heaven (or your afterlife of choice). Because they are all dead. Outside of a hologram at Coachella you are never going to see Tupac again… but then who was that at the Warriors/Celtics game on Wednesday…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:55 PM EST
Tommy Lasorda is a motivator. The legendary Dodger skipper was never a managerial genius with moves that wowed baseball’s intellegentia, but his players would run through a wall for him. He understood enough that is a limping Kirk Gibson wants to pinch-hit in the World Series you send him out there, but mostly he just…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:14 PM EST
The last time the Philadelphia 76ers won a game it was Jan. 29 in Boston. Since then the Sixers have lost 15 in a row, by an average of 19.8 points a game (a couple 40+ point losses skew that number). Coach Brett Brown is not sure his team will win another game this season…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:03 PM EST
The Orlando Magic showed their Dwight Howard tribute video, and as expected, fans booed (though not as thoroughly as I would have hoped during the entire video). Presumably, Chandler Parsons, now Howard’s teammate with the Houston Rockets, was not among the jeerers. But in a different time and place, he could have been. Jonathan Feigen…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:33 AM EST
The Nuggets got a pretty good bargain signing Nate Robinson to the bi-annual exception. But in exchange for paying Robinson such a low salary, they had to give him a player option for the second season of his two-year contract. That way Robinson wasn’t stuck being underpaid if he had a strong year, and he…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:07 AM EST
After ranking third in the NBA in 3-point percentage last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have slipped to below league average this year. So, it appears they’ll target outside shooting with their vacant roster spot. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The Thunder is filling its 15th and final roster spot with the signing of shooting…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:36 AM EST
Reports Carmelo Anthony could sign with the Chicago Bulls this offseason are nothing new. Even Melo has stoked the flames of the rumors. But most published work on the subject has focused on where Melo desires to play. Sure, by trading Luol Deng for Andrew Bynum and draft picks, the Bulls signaled a greater interest…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
The Detroit Pistons couldn’t do much to bother Joakim Noah, who had a triple-double in the Chicago Bulls’ 11-point win Wednesday. But the Pistons’ mascot, Hooper, sure scared the Bulls center after the game. Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $50,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Thursday night’s games. It’s $25 to…
- Thursday night NBA grades: Gerald Green just couldn’t seem to miss 0
- After rough shooting night LeBron says he’s “not a big fan” of sleeved jerseys 4
- Spurs get a little revenge, along with season’s signature win in takedown of Heat 21
- Suns’ rookie Alex Len takes to court with #prayforukraine on shoes 18
- Paul George wants LeBron James to be his mentor 41