Dwight Howard: Missing Preseason Will Hurt Lakers' Potential in 2012
According to the New York Daily News, Howard's rehabilitation from back surgery will, at minimum, keep him out of the beginning of training camp and the team's first preseason game. The team hasn't set a timetable, but his return by the season opener on October 30 is far from a sure thing at this point.
For a Lakers team that did everything short of a complete overhaul this offseason, this is disappointing news. The Lakers are still a team that is worthy of the title "contender" and possibly even "favorite," but the absence of Howard in training camp puts the team at a disadvantage that could have lasting effects on the entire season.
It's not as though the Lakers don't have enough talent to win without Howard. The core of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol is enough to make them a playoff team—the key for this team will be chemistry.
Kobe has never played with a point guard who has nearly the same skill set as Nash. For years, Bryant has been used to having the ball in his hands and will need to adjust to playing with a true pure point guard.
The move to Nash at the point should also mean a more up-tempo style; again, not Kobe's forte or something the Lakers have been built around for a long time.
In short, the Lakers will need to make adjustments from how they've played throughout the Kobe era to accommodate the new talent that they've brought in.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Howard won't be available when these adjustments should be made—the preseason.
Instead of establishing a style of play and gelling before the season, Howard will be forced to assimilate into the Lakers' game plan as the season rolls along.
For the most of the West's top teams, chemistry won't be an issue.
What's the greatest challenge facing the Lakers in 2012?
The Oklahoma City Thunder have chemistry in abundance, as their core of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and James Harden continue to get used to playing with each other—a core which made it all the way to the NBA Finals last season.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili continue to be relevant thanks to years and years of playing alongside each other. The Lakers will be behind their elite Western Conference counterparts in terms of chemistry.
If the Lakers stumble out of the gate or have a difficult time bringing Howard into the fold whenever that happens, they could lose precious games in the standings. With so many good teams in the West, a favorable path to the finals will be at a premium.
With the Lakers spending the early part of the season figuring out their identity, they could lose valuable ground in the standings. A run to the finals is still possible, but we won't see just how dominant this team could have been with a healthy Dwight Howard present from the beginning.
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