What 2012-13 L.A. Lakers Can Learn from 2011-12 Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are no longer just a "super team," but the very template for such teams. They weren't the first assembly of superstars and clearly won't be the last, but for the moment they do provide a shining example of how versatility and open-mindedness can even make a collection of elite talent more than the sum of its parts.
Their example should prove valuable to the next wave of similarly constructed teams—a list that surely begins with the remodeled and greatly improved Los Angeles Lakers. The positions and skill sets of L.A.'s most crucial players are a bit more compatible than those that joined up in Miami in 2010, but the Heat nonetheless hold a few lessons for the new-look Lakers.
1. Learn to Let Go
Players traditionally classified as stars typically have one significant attribute in common: monopolization of the ball. Teams typically prefer to operate with the ball in the hands of their best player, and this season's Lakers will feature three players who were the best of their respective squads last season—to say nothing of Pau Gasol.
That doesn't figure to be much of an issue for either Gasol or Steve Nash, who have demonstrated every willingness to step aside and cede control of the ball. But both Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard—the consummate alpha dog and the man desperate to be The Man—could stand to take a lesson from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Both James and Wade surrendered their stranglehold of their team's offense in order to work together, and Wade in particular stepped aside to let James shine. It's not a matter of who was the better player or the dominant personality, but which talent best serves the total offense by having the ball in their hands. In Miami, that player was James. In Los Angeles, it's Nash. Bryant has so rarely been one to let go of what he deems to be his, yet only by letting Nash operate will the Lakers reach the pinnacle of their potential.
2. Learn to Complement
Chris Bosh was accustomed to a steady diet of post-ups, pick-and-rolls and isolation opportunities in Toronto, but over the course of his two years in Miami, his game has shifted substantially. Bosh still gets the odd post-up or iso, but for the most part he's used to space the floor, roll to the rim and pull opposing bigs out of the paint.
Bosh is capable of doing far more, just as Gasol is. But the odd Laker out could nonetheless take up the equivalent post, if for no other reason than his skill set equates with the short straw. Dwight Howard certainly shouldn't be spotting up for 15-footers, and though Gasol is brilliant on the low block, that bit of real estate doesn't exactly belong to him anymore. It's not that Gasol isn't used to having played alongside Andrew Bynum, but further focus on his mid-range marksmanship would make Gasol a more natural complement to Howard and the Laker offense.
He'll undoubtedly have more room to work in his element offensively than Bosh does (after all, the post is fair game once Howard heads to the bench), but Gasol nonetheless needs to expand in his capacity to work alongside Howard, Bryant et al.
3. Learn to Play Within Yourself in an Entirely New Context
When some of the best in the NBA wind up wearing the same uniform, our attention naturally gravitates toward how those select players will interact with one another. What can Steve Nash do for Dwight Howard? Where does Gasol fit into an offense so heavily featuring three other players? Can Kobe Bryant be a dominant player without dominating the ball so completely? These are the items that leap to the top of the agenda, and rightfully so.
But important still are issues concerning the role players on such a unique team—those players that are otherwise disregarded or demeaned as being filler on a top-heavy roster. In truth, such role players are an essential part of any "super team's" greater successes, and have a unique journey in terms of their adjustment to a purely complementary role.
It's not a radical departure from merely playing alongside Kobe Bryant or Dwight Howard independently, but managing a productive interrelationship with each star player takes a delicate balance. Antawn Jamison, Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks and Metta World Peace will be operating in new capacities, in which restraint is the only crucial marching order. The rest is a matter of pure basketball flexibility, an arena in which the Heat's supporting cast had particular success.
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