2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers Preview
Did the Los Angeles Lakers do anything this offseason?
Dwight Howard and Steve Nash? Oh, that's a lot.
That's right, the Lakers acquired the best center in the league and a two-time MVP point guard. And, it essentially only cost them Andrew Bynum.
Kobe Bryant remained, of course.
The Lakers didn't even have to part with Pau Gasol to bring in these two future Hall of Famers.
That is a productive offseason.
But it brings about a few questions.
Yes, this is most talented starting five in the NBA, including Metta World Peace at the small forward. Everyone will need their touches and there will be a lot of All-Star votes cast for players with "Los Angeles Lakers" next to their names.
Could that be too much?
No one is suggesting this is anyone but Bryant's squad still, even at the age of 34 and with quite a few miles on his knees. But the offseason acquisitions of Howard and Nash, coupled with Gasol's spot, and that could be a lot of cooks in the kitchen.
"I don't want to get into the, 'Well, we share ...' No, it's my team," Bryant said. "But I want to make sure that Dwight, when I retire, this is going to be his. I want to teach him everything I possibly know so that when I step away this organization can ride on as if I never left."
It is a lot for head coach Mike Brown to manage.
Bryant can be tough on a coach, Gasol can get pouty, Howard burned every bridge between Orlando and Los Angeles and World Peace can be less than peaceful.
"I look forward to working with these guys as individual humans first and on top of that they can play a little bit," said Brown.
And Howard will only play a little bit at first.
After back surgery in mid-April, Howard wasn't ready for 5-on-5 contact at the start of training camp. He is not expected to miss any regular-season time.
He better not, because the hopes of the Lakers, at least defensively, rest on his broad shoulders. Howard has to own the paint for the Lakers to challenge the Thunder in the West.
2011-12 Results: 47-25, first in Pacific; Lost to Oklahoma City in West semifinals.
ADDITIONS: C Dwight Howard, G Steve Nash, F Antawn Jamison, G Jodie Meeks, G Chris Duhon
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Steve Nash SG- Kobe Bryant SF- Metta World Peace PF- Pau Gasol C- Dwight Howard
KEY RESERVES: F Antawn Jamison, G Chris Duhon, G Steve Blake, C Jordan Hill, G Jodie Meeks, F Earl Clark.
FRONTCOURT: Howard is obviously the key to this group. He is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and five seasons running, the First Team All-NBA center. They don't grow on trees.
He is the game's premiere rebounder and shot-blocker. Howard can own the paint and he will need to. Nash was a horrendous defender in his mid-20s and now, being close to 40, he's putrid.
Bryant is average at this point, contrary to how many All-Defensive teams he makes.
Howard will have to patrol the paint and he's more than capable.
World Peace is still a decent defender and he'll have to improve his 3-point shooting. He should get a lot of looks from the corners the way the Lakers are constituted.
Gasol is a wild-card. Offensively, he should still be the No. 2 option. He can knock down the elbow-jumper and Nash instantly improves any offense. But if Gasol doesn't get his normal touches, morale could be a concern. Also, if the season progresses and the lack of shooting and athleticism becomes a true concern, Gasol could be once again on the trade block.
BACKCOURT: Bryant and Nash are the best starting backcourt in the league. They are older, but Bryant is still an elite scorer, narrowly losing out on last seasons's scoring title to Kevin Durant.
Bryant once again represented the U.S. at the Olympics, but assured everyone he's fine, heath-wise and that he got "in game shape right from the beginning."
Nash will be relied on far less than he ever was with the Dallas Mavericks or Phoenix Suns. He's one of the best shooters, both 3-point and free-throw, in the game. It will be a joy to watch him find Howard flying through the air on pick-and-rolls.
BENCH: This group is thin and at first glance, with that starting quartet, you might not think you need the bench that much.
Howard is the youngest starter by almost six years. Nash is 38, Bryant is 34 and Gasol and World Peace are both 32. That's an old group and Brown wants to limit minutes as best he can, especially for Bryant.
"If I can, I'd definitely love to keep his minutes down and not have them up to 38," Brown said of his star's minutes. "But I'm sure he'll tell you he can play 48, which is probably true if he needed to. But we feel like we have a deep team this year and hopefully at the end of the day it leads to reduced minutes for him."
Meeks is the primary back-up for Bryant. He's a shooter who doesn't shoot the 3 particularly well. Duhon and Blake are both serviceable bench point guards and may play some together.
Hill is high-energy big.
Jamison is an intriguing pick-up. Fitting in the Lakers mold of being older, Jamison is not done yet. He averaged 17 points per game with the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers last season and can spell either forward spot.
COACHING: Brown had some difficulties with Bryant in his first season with the Lakers. Anyone who replaced Phil Jackson was going to be scrutinized, but Brown had his moments of strange decisions.
Brown is a very controlling coach, but with this group, it's best to let them be for stretches of time. If you can't trust Nash and Bryant to run your offense, who can you trust?
Juggling minutes for each starter will be tough. No matter how deep Brown thinks the Lakers are, they aren't. Gasol needs a hug every now and then and World Peace can be a bit tough to handle sometimes.
Brown brought in Eddie Jordan as an assistant to help implement more facets of the Princeton Offense.
On paper, this looks like an easy team to coach, but it might not be.
OUTLOOK: The Lakers are in that group where the title aspirations are legitimate. The starting five is the best in the NBA and if the Lakers jell, a run at the ring is not far-fetched.
Problem is, in almost every sporting instance where a team gets infused with several All-Stars in one offseason, it doesn't work right away. It takes time for personalities to click and for everyone to get a grip on where they fit in the offense.
And where they all fit is still directly behind Bryant.
"I think this is Kobe's team," said Nash. "But anyone who's ever played on a basketball team, it's also our team. The team needs to share in that responsibility. Kobe can't do everything. He's going to be great at what he's great at, and the rest of us got to pick up the pieces that get to us."
Count me on the side that thinks this project is a little too in its infancy to net a world title. The Pacific Division and No. 2 seed in the West are easy goals.