L.A. Lakers: The Good, Bad and Surprising Revelations So Far
Three games into the Lakers season, it's too early to panic or assume the worst. But what we can do is simply assess what the team has done and whether it bodes well for further down the road.
The good news is that they won’t face three games in a row for the rest of the season. With a season this compressed, those days off are precious for the fifth-oldest team in the league.
At 1-2, the team isn’t an offensive juggernaut, but it's been competitive in every game, and it’ll take some getting used to a team that has plenty of new faces.
Here are my thoughts three games into this season.
Kobe's Healthy and on Fire
The rumors of Kobe Bryant being healthy—his finger notwithstanding—are true, as he’s averaging 28.5 points in the first three games while looking as comfortable as he’s looked in years.
All offseason, Lakers fans wondered how effective he’d be in Year 16, and it’s clear that you can pencil in the Black Mamba for at least 20 points and a well-rounded night of rebounds, assists and steals.
Bryant's play has definitely been a positive, and folks might want to think twice before assuming his decline has gotten steeper.
Kobe Can't Be the Only Offensive Option
In spite of his offense, the Lakers cannot go too far with Bryant as the only option. The loss to Chicago showed that Bryant will be double-teamed and dared to win doing the impossible, instead of Bryant taking the smart shot.
The Lakers don’t have anyone who can create their own shot. You have spot-up shooters, big men and role players who are used to somebody setting up for them.
Someone will have to step up and be a consistent No. 2 option—preferably on the perimeter—so teams won’t key in on letting Bryant do it all. This Lakers team feels like a better version of the '06-08 Lakers, who had great role players but nobody who teams worried about in the clutch.
McRoberts/Ebanks/Murphy Are Paying off Already
Josh McRoberts and Devin Ebanks have been great sparks as starters. The Lakers have sorely lacked youth in their rotation, and seeing McRoberts hustle after loose balls and Ebanks spread the floor is exactly what the team needs.
Both have been effective as starters and showed why Mike Brown’s faith in them has been rewarded.
In the same way, Troy Murphy, off the bench, has shown why he was a double-double machine earlier in his career. He’s averaging 8.3 rebounds per game and finished Tuesday’s game with 11.
These Lakers may not be offensive stars, but they know their role and are comfortable in that position. Time will tell if that will translate into something more, but it's something to celebrate right now.
Perimeter Defense Is Still Shaky (For Now)
The Lakers have all the makings of a great defensive team, as their infusion of youth and eagerness to fit into Mike Brown’s new system has made them a bit tougher. Yet at times there are still plenty of basic lapses.
The Kings exposed their troubles on the perimeter by getting many easy shots when players didn’t rotate quickly enough or by beating players off the dribble.
If the Lakers face quicker teams or quick guards, they’ll be in trouble, and that problem won’t be solved as easily when Andrew Bynum gets back. Yet there’s also reason to be optimistic the team will find ways to resolve this because the defensive intensity is already promising after three games.
How Long Will Peace Reign?
The name has changed, and so has his position. Metta World Peace is taking over the bench spot once claimed by his Queensbridge buddy Lamar Odom. Despite his usual troubles dribbling the ball, he’s played surprisingly well.
He’s scored in double figures the last two games, and he’s far more effective collecting buckets on tip-ins or broken plays. Most importantly, he hasn’t turned the ball over yet.
Is this a sign of an evolved World Peace? Time will tell, as he’ll still be prone to take bad shots, and with Andrew Bynum’s return, the jury’s still out on if this can be a permanent change.
Mike Brown Knows What He's Doing
So far, Mike Brown has shown a positive impact as head coach. He’s been honest about his disappointments with the team, yet he takes the time to teach his players during timeouts what to do better.
Already, the Lakers are looking committed to defense. They responded to Brown’s criticism of their performance in Sacramento with a blowout win over Utah. It's not going to click right away, but the effort is showing up in their rotations and willingness to stick with the schemes.
I’d say Brown deserves kudos so far for his ability to balance criticism with praise. Early on, hiring him has been justified.