10 Big Expectations for the Los Angeles Lakers This Season
Because of their winning tradition, expectations for the Los Angeles Lakers have always been enormous, almost to an overwhelming extent.
Even after a brutal sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, a coaching change, a lockout, the Chris Paul trade that almost happened, the loss of Lamar Odom and other significant events that have changed the franchise's image, one constant still remains for the 2011-12 Lakers team: big expectations.
Here, I have compiled a list of 10 of them.
1. Solid Production from Role Players
The Los Angeles Lakers have been criticized for their bench play over the past few seasons, and for good reason—outside of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the Lakers certainly lack a lot of depth.
However, in this year's shortened season, which features back-to-back-to-back games, the Lakers need to rely on their role players in order to succeed.
In their first three games with the team, Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy have met expectations by crashing the boards.
Additionally, Devin Ebanks has been active and has shot the ball well, while Jason Kapono and Andrew Goudelock have shot it well from the 3-point line.
In order to meet expectations of solid bench-play, these players need to continue producing at a high level.
2. Metta World Peace: Go-to Guy off the Bench
Last season, Metta World Peace was incredibly inconsistent as a starter.
This year, Mike Brown expects World Peace to thrive as the Lakers' lead bench-player—in other words, World Peace has to be the new Lamar Odom.
Certainly, these are huge shoes to fill, but World Peace must play at a high level in order to provide relief for the starters and to instill confidence into other bench players.
In order to be Odom 2.0, World Peace must continue dominating inside rather than shooting from the outside.
3. Rise of the Big Three
Without Odom and with an unproven cast of role players, the expectations for the Lakers’ big three of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to dominate are quite lofty.
Quite a few teams in the Western Conference are formidable, including the Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks, and many believe that these teams are better than the Lakers.
In order to beat these teams, the experienced corps of Bryant, Gasol and Bynum need to produce immensely and effectively.
Gasol and Bynum need to score in the paint and rebound, and Bryant needs to continue shooting at a high percentage.
This will be difficult because of the group’s age, injury history and the shortened season, but that justifies why it’s a big expectation.
4. Continue to Use Size as an Advantage
The Lakers lost their size advantage when Lamar Odom was traded.
Although it’s clear that the Lakers cannot regain this advantage completely, they still have quite a few tall and productive players.
The Lakers are one of the few teams in the league with a great center-power-forward pairing in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, which is why the two should use their height and skills to their advantage.
In addition, 6’10” Josh McRoberts and 6’11” Troy Murphy are good rebounders who can stretch the floor with their ability to shoot jumpers.
5. Be Motivated
At the end of last season, it was clear that the Lakers lacked motivation—while being dominated by the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs, the Lakers played lackadaisically.
This season, it’s vital that they revive their image as one of the most determined teams in the NBA.
After a disappointing season last year, it won’t be difficult for Mike Brown and Kobe Bryant to instill a sense of urgency and inspiration in the team.
6. Play Efficient Offense Without the Triangle
The triangle offense brought numerous championships to Los Angeles.
However, Mike Brown has made it clear that the days of the triangle are over.
Now, the offense will run through big-men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, leaving open jump-shot opportunities for teammates—Kobe Bryant will get his opportunities as well.
In order to repeat the success that the triangle brought, the Lakers must make use of the offensive skills they possess in a new system.
7. Play Defense Intensely
The Lakers displayed numerous defensive flaws against the Mavericks in the playoffs last year—they lacked motivation and they didn’t rotate well enough.
As a result of their poor defensive play, they left an impression that they aren’t an efficient defensive team.
In order to erase this image, the Lakers must abide by the new, intense defensive system that Mike Brown has enforced.
To limit opposing offenses, they need to improve their help-and-recover defense in addition to limiting dribble penetration.
8. Get Along with Mike Brown
After years of being led by Phil Jackson, the “Zen Master,” the Lakers now have a new head coach, Mike Brown.
Mike Brown has instilled a new offensive and defensive system. In order for these systems to work effectively, the team needs to respect the coach.
When players don’t have a good relationship with their coach, bad things are sure to happen. An example of this occurred last season when Detroit Pistons players refused to show up to team practices because of a bad rapport with former coach John Kuester.
The Lakers can’t afford to let this happen, which is why the players need to get along with Mike Brown.
9. Play Better Than the Clippers
After acquiring Chris Paul, it seemed that the Los Angeles Clippers were the new team in town, overshadowing the storied Los Angeles Lakers—Los Angeles became “Lob City.”
The Lakers clearly need to reclaim their territory and prove that they are, in fact, Los Angeles’ team.
This can only be done, nonetheless, through winning.
10. Win a Championship
Every season, the biggest expectation for the Los Angeles Lakers is to win.
Making the playoffs isn’t expected anymore. It's a given.
What's truly expected of the Lakers, even in a season of extreme uncertainty, is to win big—to bring a title back to Los Angeles.