5 Reasons L.A. Lakers Could Be Destined to Disappoint This Season
Things feel peachy in Tinseltown as the season inches closer, but there are a few concerns that fans should have on their radar.
While most are bubbling with excitement over the Lakers' prospects, cautious optimism should be the predominant feeling entering the 2012-13 campaign.
Here are five reasons why the Lakers could disappoint this season.
Too Many New Pieces
There's something to be said for team chemistry, and at this point, it's uncertain just how much these new-look Lakers will have.
When you take a look around the league at other title contenders, you notice that they all have something in common: cohesion across each phase of the game.
The San Antonio Spurs have made a living off of playing fundamental, team-first ball the way no other team can and have jelled to the point that their execution is scarier than their raw talent.
For a team like the Lakers, the key will be patience. Dwight Howard will take some time to get acclimated with a new system, and Steve Nash will have to adapt to not being the primary ball-handler in crunch time.
While things look great on paper, there will be plenty of growing pains as the 2012-13 season pushes on.
New Princeton Offense
The Princeton offense is one of the more intricate offensive philosophies in all of basketball, and it's unlikely that Eddie Jordan's new tactics will click right away.
While Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant are two of the most cerebral players in the game, they both come from very different backgrounds. Bryant, of course, has played most of his career in the triangle offense under Phil Jackson, while Nash played in a very fast-paced, pick-and-roll offense in Phoenix.
In a system that's so dependent on ball movement, the Lakers will need to establish smooth chemistry from the get-go if they want to see the benefits of the Princeton offense.
This new scheme will stretch players mentally, but it could also create some serious benefactors. As Grantland's Sebastian Pruiti explains in an excellent piece on the Princeton offense, Dwight Howard may actually benefit the most from Eddie Jordan's scheme:
What's the first option Eddie Jordan talked about when explaining his offense to NBATV? A look into the center. In this offense, most post touches come early, with a big posting up being the first look. The most important thing to look at is the spacing once the ball gets delivered into the post.
If Howard can flex his improved post moves and pass effectively out of the post, the Princeton offense could quickly become the Lakers' new secret weapon.
With an aging starting lineup, it's surprising the Los Angeles Lakers didn't address their team's overall depth to a greater extent this summer.
To start, there's a serious logjam at point guard behind starter Steve Nash. Chris Duhon and Steve Blake are both flawed talents, and Blake has failed to flash consistency in his two years with the team.
As Nash grows older, the Lakers will need to find a backup capable of running the team's new offense while the two-time MVP sits for periods of the second and third quarters.
Perhaps more troublesome than the reserve talent at point guard is the Lakers' lack of depth on the wing. Behind Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace, you have names like Jodie Meeks and Devin Ebanks, both of whom are limited both offensively and defensively.
Meeks may prosper a bit more in the Western Conference, but during his time with the Sixers, he showed that his only real contribution on the offensive end came in the form of three-point shooting. Unable to drive to the cup with authority, Meeks was eventually relegated to bench duty in Philly (via philly.com).
Another concern with Meeks is that he has struggled mightily trying to defend more physically imposing wings. As a limited role player, Meeks will be streaky, and the Lakers are going to have to learn to live with his imperfections.
Ebanks provides the length and athleticism on the wing that Meeks lacks. However, the third-year wing posted a PER of just 8.35 last season, and that will need to improve markedly if he wants any shot at significant minutes off the bench.
Dwight Howard's Health
Injuries and setbacks will always be unpredictable, so it's imperative that the Lakers exercise caution with Dwight Howard as the regular season gets underway.
Coming off of serious back surgery (via ESPN.com), Howard's health will need to be monitored extremely closely, and it will be crucial that the Lakers not push him until he's truly 100 percent.
Playing Howard just to get him out there could be detrimental in the long run. Instead, the Lakers would be wise to preserve their prized offseason acquisition to ensure years of sustained success beyond the 2012-13 season.
Thus far, there have been no indications that Howard's recovery has hit a snag, but with an injury of this severity, proper precautions must be taken to maximize Howard's potential once he returns to action.
However, the team's concern doesn't pertain strictly to Howard. According to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times, the team is focusing on the health of its stars and role players now, more than ever:
The Lakers, who boast a starting lineup averaging 32.6 years in age, hope to prevent that fate by taking cautious measures. Bryant sat out of two practice sessions Oct. 5 after having a sore right foot. He also sat out of the the preseason game Wednesday against Portland because of a mild right shoulder injury that happened after dunking on Antawn Jamison in the previous day's practice. The Lakers have also taken no chances when injuries have popped up with Jordan Hill (herniated disk) and Earl Clark (strained left groin). Nash, 38, went through vigorous treatment this off-season to ensure that his back stays healthy.
Meanwhile, Howard has refused to set a benchmark on his return date, and will only play once his surgically repaired back feels 100%.
Mike Brown's Coaching
The 2011-12 season was a notoriously difficult one for Mike Brown and the Los Angeles Lakers. Things got off to a rocky start during Brown's first year in L.A., and as Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com points out, his players were none too happy with his approach:
Shootarounds were often two or three-hour affairs. Brown favored practices on the mornings after a back-to-back. Days off were few and far between.
Brown was new. The systems he needed to install on offense and defense were different than those the Lakers had run under Phil Jackson. After a flurry of deals at the trade deadline, half the team was new too. Brown needed time to teach. His players needed time to learn. Even late in the season, even in their second-round playoff series against Oklahoma City, the Lakers looked like a team still figuring things out.
Now obviously, the lockout-shortened season played a big role in Brown not being able to manage his team the way he would have preferred, but he's going to have to dial it back this season for things to move in a positive direction.
As the season presses on, Brown would be wise to take it easy on his vets, particularly because they'll be the ones carrying the team through the regular season and beyond.
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