Lakers Face Uncertain Future
If you looked at an events calendar for the Staples Center in 2012-13, you would see that the circus wasn't scheduled to come to town. With last year's Lakers, it never left.
Last season was a sideshow from the front office all the way down to the players on the court.
Mike Brown was fired after just five games and after a very public courting of Phil Jackson went for naught, Brown's replacement, Mike D'Antoni, found himself scrutinized to a higher degree than ever before in his career - and that includes coaching in New York.
Prized free agent signing Steve Nash never really got it going, thanks to a series of injuries, including a broken fibula, that saw the Victoria, BC native miss a career-high 32 games last season. Carrying the load for the team proved to be too much for Kobe Bryant, who averaged a career-high 38.6 minutes per game in 2012-13, as the 35-year-old tore his Achilles on April 12th, keeping him out of the Lakers' brief playoff run (a first-round sweep, their first since 1967, by the San Antonio Spurs.)
And there was the Dwight Howard saga.
Dwight Howard was supposed to be the next great Lakers big man in a legacy that spans from Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Shaquille O'Neal. He was far from it.
Never gelling with his teammates and wilting under the pressure of the Los Angeles spotlight, Howard was a poor fit for the Lakers and proved to be a constant distraction. After Howard signed in the offseason with the Houston Rockets, Nash said that Howard never wanted to be a Laker and team co-owner Jim Buss went so far as to state that Howard "never really was a Laker."
Any way you cut it, the Dwight Howard experiment was a regrettable one and the Lakers are left trying to pick up the pieces.
Who's In/Who's Out
Key Additions: Ryan Kelly, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, Ellias Harris, Xavier Henry, Marcus Landry
Key Losses: Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Antwan Jamison, Chris Duhon, Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock
If you believe in addition by subtraction, then getting Howard out of the Lakers dressing room is a big plus in itself.
It would be foolish to suggest that Howard brought nothing at all to the table because his talent is undeniable, but the fact of that matter is that his presence was a distraction for the club and Howard clearly had mentally checked out on the team.
The Best in the West?
Just Keep Improving
Another Trying Season
They're Not Last
Playing For 2014-15
To a lesser extent, the amnestying of Metta World Peace will have a similar effect for team chemistry.
The other crucial factor in Howard's exit is that Pau Gasol will now have the opportunity to shoulder much more of a load than he had been last season. Marginalized as a scorer by Howard, the lanky Spaniard will start the year as the Lakers' number-one scoring option.
If Nash can stay healthy he is still one of the best passers in the game and has the savvy to find open looks for his teammates.
And of course, if Kobe can return sooner than later, he is a tough guy to bet against. The type of will and determination to win that Kobe possesses goes a long way and he could put the team on his back and have them fighting for a playoff spot.
The Not So Good
Despite a seemingly miraculous recovery, Bryant still won’t be ready for the start of the season and his return date is yet unknown. By the time he is back the Lakers may be too far gone.
The aging superstar’s issues are a microcosm of what could potentially plague the Lakers this all season: injury and the ravages of age.
Kobe is 35. Nash is 40. Gasol is now 33. Only Young, among potential starters for the Lakers, is under the age of 30. Age catches up to everybody and, inevitably, leads to higher instances of injury. The Lakers might just be too old to compete in the young man’s West.
And no offence to Jodie Meeks, but if the Lakers don’t have something resembling a healthy Kobe Bryant for a majority of the season, the Lakers could be looking at no postseason for the first time since 2005.
This team could also be abysmal on the defensive end of the court.
What To Expect
The Lakers just have so many issues that it's hard to imagine them making the playoffs.
For the first time in a long time, both the future and present seem uncertain. No longer are they the class of the NBA, they're not even best in L.A. anymore. Unless Kobe can come back early and Nash and Gasol can fight off father time this could be a rough year.
The team should still be competitive and finish somewhere in the .500 range, but competitive doesn't cut it for a franchise that expects championships.