Granted, the Lakers would look terrific on paper. The starting backcourt of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant has, respectively, a two-time MVP winner and a five-time NBA champion. At the frontcourt is a twin tower alignment of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard—two of the best players of their generation. Metta World Peace will probably start at small forward and can play at a high level when he wants to.
However, the team's résumé belies fundamental chemistry, character and age issues which preclude them from being the NBA favorite to win a ring.
As to team chemistry, the Lakers will be a team with in-congruent styles. Over the last decade—or for more than 700 games—Steve Nash has been used to controlling the offense and pushing an up-tempo style.
Bryant has been the principal ball-handler and scorer for the Lakers for close to a decade as well. He's never played with as active a point guard as Steve Nash. Furthermore, unlike Nash, Bryant prefers a slow half-court style.
Both Nash and Bryant are slated to play more than thirty minutes a night. They will be on the court together during during key stretches of every game. Can the two co-exist?
Based on his last season with the Orlando Magic, Dwight Howard has proven to be extremely emotional and impatient when it comes to getting exactly what he wants from a team. Consider him a powder keg that could send the Lakers' entire season reeling into a second round playoff loss.
Howard's defensive presence is unparalleled in the NBA. However, Howard may want to be "the man" in Los Angeles; primarily, he may clamor to the media about not getting the most offensive touches on the squad. Bryant, who is not shy with the media when it comes to asserting his authority over teammates, will not be quietly diplomatic about Howard's off-court behavior.
If the two butt heads on the public stage, it's difficult to imagine either ego-driven player relenting. As a result, the Lakers would soon self-destruct into a tabloid sensation rather than a legitimate championship contender.
The Lakers' supporting players—which counter-intuitively includes their young, overly deferential head coach Mike Brown—have their own character based issues as well.
As his vicious elbow to Oklahoma City Thunder's James Harden's head during a 2012 regular season contest indicated, Metta World Peace is a constant threat to commit a heinous league offense. Pau Gasol's precipitous decline in play during last year's playoffs seemed like a sign of frustration with various Lakers teammates.
Age is also a concern with the Lakers. Four of the Lakers' starters—Gasol, Bryant, Nash, and World Peace—are on the wrong side of thirty. The average age of the Lakers' starting backcourt is 36-years- old. Pau Gasol is only 32, but his game has lost a step and his desire to win has not been as intense since the Lakers won their last championship in 2010. Metta World Peace is also 32 and not nearly the fearsome defensive stopper he used to be.
What could make the Lakers click is Steve Nash. Nash has a folk-hero status in the NBA because of his uncanny basketball IQ and unselfishness. If the Lakers defer to Nash and let him be the team captain, then there is a very strong chance that Nash will figure out how to optimize every players' capabilities on the floor. However, whether Bryant and Howard would be willing to permit Nash to dictate who does what is highly uncertain.
As for now, younger teams with proven chemistry such as the Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder still remain the favorites to win a championship next season. The Lakers may have the stars to compete, but potentially grave issues are too glaring to feel strongly about their championship chances next season.
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