5 Questions Left Unanswered After L.A. Lakers Training Camp
After a productive training camp and a dismal preseason record-wise, the Los Angeles Lakers are set to tip off with a lot of unanswered questions.
The process of installing a new offense under the assistant coach, Eddie Jordan, has yielded zero wins in the preseason and is obviously still a work in progress.
However, because of preseason play being more of a test run for teams than a must-win series of games, it is hard to measure the full capabilities of this latest Lakers incarnation.
In retrospect, the early return of defensive juggernaut Dwight Howard and the anointment of Steve Nash as the key cog in the Lakers' offense appear to be positive strides towards improved defense and a more versatile offense.
After this preseason and training camp, the L.A. Lakers enter the NBA season with five unanswered questions that prevent their coronation as the kings of the west.
Can the Lakers' Bench Produce Enough Offense?
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Ever since the Lakers and Lamar Odom parted ways, the Lakers' once feared and respected bench mob has been a mockery of its former self.
There is no doubt that bench production has been lacking during each of the Lakers' eight preseason losses.
The onus of the blame falls upon Antawn Jamison, who remains confident despite his struggles from the field and on the boards.
From a player with career averages of close to 20 points and eight rebounds per game, Jamison's 4.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and less than 30 percent shooting from the floor during the preseason is horribly deficient.
Although it is unfair to expect Odom-like production from Jamison given the fact that they are two different types of players, it is very fair to expect more efficient scoring and rebounding from a player who has always been very productive in both categories.
Furthermore, with a bench that consists of players like Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill, who are more defensively gifted than offensively skilled, Jamison needs to pick up his production and efficiency in lieu of other offensive options.
Despite his age, he should still be able to score the ball efficiently given that his proficiency from long range as well as his unorthodox post moves will be utilized mostly against opposing teams' second-unit players.
However, it is unfair to expect Jamison to produce the entirety of the second unit's offense.
Hill's continued development, Jodie Meeks' defense and effectiveness from the perimeter and Steve Blake's passing and three-point shooting are also factors that need to stay consistent to produce offense from the second unit.
Can the Lakers Conform to the Princeton Offense?
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Being a rigid offense that naturally progresses from an initial set up that requires specific positioning of the players on the court, the Lakers' adaptation of the Princeton offense has become a controversial topic in the NBA.
The biggest benefit of this system is that it is an offense that allows natural reactions and responses to the defense. This style of offense is very similar to the nature of the Triangle offense, and could be a very organic and intuitive style of play for the Lakers to adapt.
Being a motion offense that is very focused on establishing the post for the center and the power forward, the Lakers can take advantage of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, two of the most talented big men in the NBA.
However, the problem with this offense may be that it could limit the creativity of Steve Nash, who won't have the ball in his hands all that often given the nature of the Princeton offense.
Furthermore, though some critics may regard this as a positive rather than a negative, Kobe Bryant's excellent one-on-one skills could be limited in an offense that is centered around screens, cuts and post play.
Despite the potential flaws, there is no doubt that the Lakers have all the talent required in the starting lineup to run the Princeton offense to perfection.
Both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are excellent shooters who will be able to find open shots and driving lanes in this style of offense.
Pau Gasol is the perfect passing big man to pair up with this style of offense, and Dwight Howard's dominance down low is an excellent boon to this post-centric offense.
However, given their high turnover rate of close to 19 turnovers a game during the preseason, the Lakers haven't proven that their offense is established and effective.
The players are obviously willing to give the offense a shot this early in the season, but questions regarding their ability to adapt this offense or even accept it in the long run still exist.
Can Metta World Peace Return to Form?
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Reportedly entering this season at a lean 250 pounds, the player formerly known as Ron Artest looks to become a focal point of the Lakers' offense this year.
Being admittedly out of shape during the previous season, Metta World Peace's new physique and consistent confidence have yielded a decent statistical preseason.
Peace averaged 10 points, four rebounds, and 1.9 assists during the preseason, which is right around the numbers expected from the fifth option on offense.
However, his shooting percentages from the field and from long range are all under 40 percent and his free throw percentage is at 61 percent.
This type of inefficiency from the field is a continuing trend from his offensive decline in the past few seasons.
Furthermore, his 10-point contribution per game may be a bit misleading given the fact that players often rest or do not play to their fullest effort during the preseason.
Though World Peace remains a formidable force on the defensive end, his poor shooting percentages still yields unanswered questions regarding his contributions on offense.
Has Age Caught Up with the Lakers' Oldest Stars?
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With Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash being 34 and 38 years of age, respectively, there are going to be questions regarding whether or not this season is the season where the inevitable degradation of athletic ability and physical endurance becomes a major factor.
Nash has had back issues going back numerous seasons while Bryant has bravely soldiered through a myriad of injuries throughout his career.
Although Nash has stated during the previous season that his back hasn't felt this good in a decade, there is no doubt that at the ripe age of 38, every precaution must be taken in order to preserve his body for the playoffs.
Given this fact, all of the Lakers' starters have been given plenty of rest and time off during the preseason in order to ensure that injuries do not occur in meaningless preseason games.
However, despite the laxness of the preseason schedule, Bryant has picked up a foot injury that could hinder his ability to play in the season opener.
While Nash tweaked his ankle, his injury isn't considered serious and should not hamper him for the opener.
In retrospect, the injury to Bryant as well as this relatively minor ankle injury to Nash are worrying signs for the Lakers.
Although minor pains and bruises are the norm for players in any age range, that doesn't quiet the discomfort that surfaces when players in Bryant and Nash's age range accumulate these injuries.
Though they should not really hinder the two aging stars in the long run, the very fact that they did acquire some minor injuries does little to quell the questions regarding the mileage on their legs and their durability in the long run.
Is Dwight Howard Content in L.A.?
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Dwight Howard has always been a charismatic player and fan perception has always been very important to the dominant big man.
Back in Orlando, Howard had stated that he was uncomfortable with the media scrutiny there, which revealed his desire to be liked and his disdain towards being critiqued. His petty back-and-forth affair with Shaquille O'Neal has left a very uncomfortable perception in regards to both players in the public eye.
In what can be considered a major step up from the Orlando media circuit, Howard is about to be subject to the biggest media spotlight in the NBA.
So far, Dwight Howard has given glowing reviews regarding his time in L.A.
However, the first signs of criticism and scrutiny are beginning to form in response to the Lakers' preseason losses.
Although all of the Lakers' players, including Howard, have given great PR responses to their criticisms thus far, the incoming media scrutiny will only intensify should the Lakers continue to struggle.
Given the fact that Howard has only one year left on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent, the biggest question on the minds of the Lakers is whether or not Dwight Howard will stay after the conclusion of this season.
However, the question has a very simple answer. Dwight Howard will stay if he is content. Dwight Howard is content when his team is winning, which is the hallmark of all great players.
Howard has proved via his controversy in Orlando and the manner in which he handled his relationship with Stan Van Gundy that he is not the type of player that deals well with adversity and criticism.
The losses that the Lakers have accumulated in the preseason have spurred minor concerns that there will definitely be an adjustment period needed in order for the Lakers to really get rolling.
If the Lakers do undergo a string of losses, the onus of the blame with fall on the Lakers' highest profile addition, Howard.
Dwight Howard left Orlando due to his unwillingness to tolerate losing, the scrutiny and disdain he faced in light of his feud with Stan Van Gundy, and the need for a fresh start due to the defacement of his image following the contract situation in Orlando.
If the preseason is any indication, Dwight Howard may have to face many of those tribulations and criticisms once more before the Lakers can really click. The question is whether Howard will be content to play through this adversity and remain a Laker, or choose to flee to greener pastures.