5 Reasons L.A. Lakers Fans Should Be Giddy for the Start of Training Camp

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 5, 2012

5 Reasons L.A. Lakers Fans Should Be Giddy for the Start of Training Camp

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    The start of training camp always comes with renewed hope and high expectations, neither of which are new to the L.A. Lakers. But this season, the hype is out of control, even by the Lakers’ elevated standards.

    Of course, that tends to happen when you add a point guard with a pair of MVP awards and the world’s most dominant defensive center.

    Unlike the Chris Paul fiasco of a year ago, the Lakers are certain of their roster heading into camp. Their starting five is etched in stone and the bench, while thin, has a couple of useful pieces in Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks. Outside of Steve Blake’s unfortunate run-in with a spike strip, things have been quiet in L.A. Or, at least as quiet as they can be, considering the high profiles of their new acquisitions.

    Plus, the Lakers are going to institute their third offensive scheme in three years. Instead of a stagnant, stand-around attack, the constant motion and precision off-ball cuts of the Princeton offense should help the Lakers better utilize their considerable talent this year.

    Without having played any games yet, preseason or otherwise, there haven’t been any tangible victories for Lakers fans to rejoice over. But enthusiasm based on pure hope is the best kind. And at this juncture, that’s all there is.

    Here are five reasons L.A. Lakers fans should be positively giddy about the start of training camp.

Dwight Howard Is Already Practicing

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    When Dwight Howard underwent back surgery last April, nobody was sure how much time he’d miss in the 2012-13 season. Of course, at that point, nobody knew he’d end up an L.A. Laker, either.

    Now freshly adorned in the Purple and Gold, Howard’s already participating in almost every facet of Lakers’ training camp. Though he’s not yet cleared to play five-on-five, Howard has been running, working in the post and even dunking. Suddenly, there’s talk of Howard playing a few preseason games, which has all but cleared the pervasive doubt about his readiness for the games that will actually count in November.

    In just a few short weeks, Howard’s prognosis has improved so dramatically that it would now be a surprise if he wasn’t ready for the regular season.

    Maybe he really is Superman.

Kobe Bryant Has Matured

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    While it might sound strange to be excited about the increased maturity of a 34-year-old superstar, don’t forget, this is Kobe Bryant we’re talking about. This is the same guy who famously refused to shoot the ball for an entire quarter of a playoff game after being criticized by then-coach Phil Jackson for taking too many “hero shots” in the previous contest.

    Kobe’s maturity shows in his self-styled “aggressive” pursuit of Steve Nash this past summer. It’s a sign that he recognizes the finite nature of his NBA career and in a more important way, it’s an acknowledgment that he can’t do it alone anymore.

    Kobe still views the Lakers as “his team”—and he’s probably right—but at least he’s grown up enough to know he’s part of one.

Pau Gasol Is Happy

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    Pau Gasol is as glad as anyone to turn the page on last season. After enduring the awkwardness of being a part of the rescinded Chris Paul trade, Gasol suffered through a season in which he was constantly rumored to be part of another deal—this time for Dwight Howard.

    His production understandably suffered, as Gasol posted career lows in scoring (17.4 points per game) and PER (20.51).

    But Gasol weathered a stormy 2011-12 and is still a Laker, which is something he’s very happy about.

    Free of trade-related concerns and seemingly a perfect fit for the Lakers’ switch to a Princeton-style offense, Gasol is in an optimal position to succeed this year.

The Nash-Howard Pick-and-Roll

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    By now, everybody’s heard the talk about the Lakers using the Princeton offense, or at least something that looks a lot like it. That’s all great, and it should probably work just fine, considering the combined basketball I.Q. of the players involved.

    But if all else fails, the Lakers also have the most devastating pick-and-roll combination in NBA history (with apologies to John Stockton and Karl Malone).

    Last season, over 60 percent of Nash’s offensive usage was devoted to the pick-and-roll. Predictably, Nash excelled, rating in the NBA’s 94th percentile in points per play on the pick-and-roll according to Synergy.

    And Dwight Howard, though utilized less frequently as a roller, was the NBA’s second-most efficient player in that situation. He averaged a whopping 1.36 points per play as a roller, which makes sense considering just how unstoppable he is with a head of steam going toward the basket.

    With the league’s most dominant pick-and-roll offense as a backup plan, it’s safe to say there’s reason to be excited about the Lakers offense.

Everyone Loves Steve Nash

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    There are no stats that quantify the final reason L.A. Laker fans should be giddy about training camp, unless some sort of meter that measures pure coolness has recently been invented.

    Steve Nash is a Laker! Who (besides Phoenix Suns fans) doesn’t love that?

    In addition to being a sickeningly efficient floor general with historic perimeter accuracy, Nash is also a 38-year-old who makes exercise videos while wearing a Batman costume.

    So even if Nash’s production dips this season, or he finally succumbs to injury, Laker fans should be ecstatic to see how much cool stuff he’ll get up to now that he’s in the entertainment capital of the world.