8 Burning Questions Facing the L.A. Lakers Next Season
On paper, their bench is much improved with the arrivals of Antwan Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Earl Clark to go along with the return of Jordan Hill and Steve Blake.
But questions remain, like how will Jamison fare coming off the bench? And can Jodie Meeks play well enough on defense?
Also, it isn't like there aren't any questions regarding the Lakers starting five either.
Steve Nash led the league in assists last season, but how will his playing style fit with that of Kobe Bryant's?
The chemistry it takes to win an NBA title isn't built in a day. If you don't believe me, ask the 2011 Miami Heat.
When Will Dwight Howard Return from His Back Injury?
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According to the Los Angeles Times, Dwight Howard has no timetable as to when he will be able to return to the court. He is currently rehabilitating after surgery to repair herniated disks in his back, and he could miss the first month of the season.
Even when Howard does return, should he be expected to instantly pick up where he left off?
Hopefully, that isn't the expectation for him, considering that he doesn't need to be scalded for a slow start when he does return. In fact, the easiest way for Howard to rebuild his image is to win games and win games quickly.
It will take time for Dwight to adjust to playing with his new teammates, and he will be doing that while getting back into basketball shape. To make things even tougher, the play of both Howard and the Lakers will be among the primary sports stories for the foreseeable future due to the past year of drama.
Also, the Western Conference features a fair share of point guards that will give Steve Nash trouble on the defensive end. It will be on Howard to help Nash when he faces the Russell Westbrooks and Chris Pauls of the world.
This is the first time that Howard is coming back from a serious injury during his NBA career, so we don't know how he will handle the adversity that comes with returning the game.
At the end of the day, while it might take Dwight a little time to return to his past form, he will be an improvement over Andrew Bynum and will dominate in the purple and gold.
How Will Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash Fit Together?
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Somehow, someway, the Los Angeles Lakers found a way to trade for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the same offseason while retaining Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Last season, Bryant averaged 27.9 points on 23 shots for an average of 1.2 points per shot. That certainly isn't bad, especially when you consider how much production Bryant brings to the table, but will he take as many shots this season?
Nash is an expert at getting open looks for his teammates, so the Lakers won't be as dependent on isolation attempts for Bryant this season.
Sure, Kobe will still be used in isolation at the end of games, but with Nash, there isn't a reason to constantly depend on Bryant as often.
How Kobe feels about this remains to be seen, but you figure that the success of the team will play a large role in how he views it.
If the Lakers are winning spreading the ball around, and he believes that the team would win him his sixth ring, then he may not protest to a more spread-out scoring approach.
For the Nash-Kobe backcourt to reach its full potential, head coach Mike Brown will need to formulate the right system. The potential of the Lakers backcourt is through the roof, even considering the fact that Nash is 38 and Kobe is entering his 17th season.
Is Mike Brown the Right Coach for This Team?
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The pressure on the latter end of Kobe Bryant's career is always going to be massive because his goal for so long has been to tie Michael Jordan's six NBA championships.
When the Los Angeles Lakers hired Mike Brown to succeed Phil Jackson last summer, he was tabbed as the guy who would coach Kobe in his final seasons.
That being said, his first season wasn't a resounding success, as the Lakers were bounced from the the Western Conference semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games.
With the arrivals of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, the pressure has be ratcheted up another level, and Brown will be the first man fired if it doesn't work out.
That's the way it works in the NBA. If a team fails, the first person to be sent packing is the head coach.
Whether or not that is fair is irrelevant, because the same will happen to Brown if the team isn't successful next season.
Kobe and Nash aren't getting any younger, so the time to win is now.
Also, the Lakers with Howard appear to have the team to beat the Miami Heat, who lack dominant big men. In theory, Howard's presence will create a question that the Heat cannot solve, because they don't have anyone that can guard him with any consistency.
Lakers nation expects nothing less than a deep run this season; anything else, and Brown will be working for ESPN again late next summer.
How Much Better Is the Bench?
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One of the flaws from last season's Los Angeles Lakers team was the play of their bench. In fact, the bench was perhaps the team's biggest flaw as the Oklahoma City Thunder fully exposed it in their series.
Credit should be given the Lakers front office, who realized the team's flaw and addressed it in the offseason.
Gone are Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy, Matt Barnes and Luke Walton, and they are being replaced by Antwan Jamison, Chris Duhon, Earl Clark and Jodie Meeks.
Trying to make sense of that mess of players isn't easy, but it is also quite obvious that Jamison is by far the best player listed.
That being said, Jamison is coming off a season in which he led the Cleveland Cavaliers in scoring, and he isn't used to coming off the bench. While he has clearly decided that he is fine with the role, that doesn't mean that it won't take him a little time to adjust to his new job.
Duhon will split backup point-guard duties with Steve Blake, but neither player is anything to get excited over. At least both players are veteran's though, and they could hopefully be trusted to not blow the game when Nash is off the floor.
Meeks will back up Kobe Bryant at shooting guard and is solid from behind the arc. He isn't a great defender though, and they really could have used a quicker, more athletic player to add defense to the second unit.
Jordan Hill will be Dwight Howard's primary backup, a role that fits him well, and the Lakers won't regret re-signing him.
On paper, this season's Lakers team appears to have a much stronger bench. If that turns out to be the case, then beating them will be a very tough task.
Can They Get by the Oklahoma City Thunder?
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The addition of Dwight Howard appears to have guaranteed that the Los Angeles Lakers will be better than the San Antonio Spurs this season, but that isn't good enough.
The Lakers have their eye on winning titles, meaning they will need to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.
In order to do so, they will need to get by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who knocked them out in five games last season.
What can't be forgotten is that Howard's arrival in L.A. has made Kendrick Perkins relevant again.
Perkins is one of the few big men in the NBA who is capable of defending Howard one-on-one. His presence alone may be enough to keep the Thunder above the Lakers in the West.
While we can't know for sure how that dynamic will play out, the Thunder are certainly better off for having Perkins to defend Dwight.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden aren't going to regress, so it will be up to the Lakers to outplay their younger opponents over the course of a series.
If the Lakers are to reach their lofty goals, then they will almost certainly have to go through Oklahoma City.
How Will Steve Nash and Dwight Howard Adjust to Playing in Los Angeles?
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Dwight Howard and Steve Nash are used to being the sole superstar on teams, but that won't be the case this season.
Nash and Howard will have to adjust to a life in which they aren't the only player on their team that can carry the load.
Also, while the Phoenix Suns under Nash and the Orlando Magic under Howard were both very good teams at times, the expectations on those teams won't even be close to what they feel in Los Angeles this season.
The pressure that he has been feeling in Orlando has just multiplied by three now. The first thing the great Jerry West did when I signed with the Lakers is he walked me into the Forum and told me to look up. He showed me all the great big men that played before me and how many championships they won. The Lakers have a tradition of having great big men. He has a lot of work ahead of him.
When Shaq speaks about the Howard situation, we should listen, because O'Neal left for L.A. over fifteen years ago. In this situation, no one has more knowledge of how the transition will play out than Shaq.
Nash and Howard have never entered a season with a team that was truly worthy of winning an NBA title, but that won't be the case this fall.
Both men will be expected to contribute to a championship run in a big way, and both will be criticized harshly if they don't play well.
What Will Pau Gasol's Role Be?
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When last season wrapped up, it appeared as if Pau Gasol had played his final game as a Laker. He was being scapegoated as one of the reasons that they were bounced by the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Lakers as a team needed some type of change.
Considering that Gasol had been traded prior to last season in the Chris Paul trade that was vetoed by NBA commissioner David Stern, Gasol seemed more likely than Andrew Bynum to be shipped out in the offseason.
As it turns out, Bynum is gone, and Dwight Howard and Steve Nash have found their way into the purple and gold.
According to Probasketballtalk.com, Bryant claimed that Gasol would be with the team as long as he is with the Lakers. Since Bryant is figured to retire a Laker, Pau could very well do the same in a few years if he wanted to go play overseas.
As for his new role, Gasol is one of the most talented big men in the league. He has consistently proven that he has a strong post game and a reliable mid-range jump shooter. Heck, he was draining three pointers consistently during the Olympics.
He is the prime candidate to work the pick-and-pop with Nash and should have an excellent season on the offensive end of the court.
It is funny how quickly things can change in the NBA, but it appears as if Gasol will be a Los Angeles Laker for the foreseeable future.
However, if this season doesn't go as well as expected, he could find himself on the trading block again next summer.
Will the Los Angeles Lakers Miss Andrew Bynum?
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While Dwight Howard is the superior player, Andrew Bynum has the more advanced post game.
When you consider the fact that Howard could miss the first month of the season while Bynum will be healthy, the opening month could produce headlines. It's easy to see that a slow Los Angeles Lakers start and quick Philadelphia 76ers start could cause the national media to distort the way we currently view the trade.
Bynum was the No. 1 option when the Lakers knocked the Denver Nuggets out of the first round of last season's playoffs, and he looked somewhat comfortable in the role.
It remains to be seen if Howard can carry a team that depends primarily on his post game. The Orlando Magic teams that he was on focused on shooting from behind the arc, something this Laker team won't do nearly as much of.
If this season's version of the Lakers struggles to score at points and Howard isn't able to increase his scoring production, then Bynum could be missed due to his superior offensive game.