5 Things LA Lakers Must Do to Build Championship-Level Chemistry
Rome wasn't built in a day, and NBA title contenders aren't either.
Though the Los Angeles Lakers seemingly pieced together one of the most prolific rosters in league history in the blink of an eye, they are not immune to struggles that come with developing chemistry.
Just ask the 2010-11 Miami Heat, who struggled to stay above .500 for the first 20 games of their inaugural campaign, losing eight of their first 17 games.
The current Lakers are faced with much of the same problems, none more glaring than finding a way to synchronize their star-studded core while maximizing each player's potential.
Despite the arduous nature of such a task, though, establishing a championship-caliber, dynasty-level rapport in the early going in possible.
As long as Los Angeles is prepared to make the necessary adjustments.
Let Steve Nash Be Steve Nash
Anyone who expected Steve Nash to drop 20 assists per night out the gate was underestimating the gravity of the Princeton offense's effect.
Not only do Princeton sets not call for a creative floor general, but Nash also has to familiarize himself with his teammates' tendencies.
Which is why the Lakers need to deviate from a structured blueprint often, at least in the beginning.
Nash is at his best when he has full control of the offense. That doesn't mean just putting the ball in his hands—it entails allowing him to create for his peers how he sees fit.
In the Lakers' opening-night loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Nash was visibly uncomfortable getting rid of the rock so early on. It's in his nature to dribble and break down defenses, not merely just dump the ball off down low.
And his discomfort showed in his stat line: he shot just 3-of-9 from the field and dished out a mere four assists—two fewer than Pau Gasol.
For the Lakers to change, for them to play dynasty-worthy basketball, Nash must thrive.
And for him to thrive, he must be encouraged to do what comes naturally—to operate outside the confines of the Princeton offense.
He must be encouraged to be more of himself.
Force Dwight Howard to Improve His Free-Throw Shooting
Hack-a-Howard hasn't gone anywhere.
Dwight Howard shot 3-of-14 from the foul line against the Mavericks, and the Lakers as a team shot just 12-of-31, good for a 38.7 percent conversion.
While Jordan Hill was just 1-of-6, Howard was the biggest culprit. He shot nearly half of Los Angeles' free throws, but knocked down just a shade of 21 percent of them.
That's poor enough to make Shaquille O'Neal cringe.
Which has to change.
Let's face it, the Lakers lost to the Mavericks because they couldn't hit their free throws—because Howard couldn't his free throws.
And as long as he remains incompetent at the line, Los Angeles remains unnecessarily vulnerable down the stretch.
Put the Ball in Kobe Bryant's Hands
Kobe Bryant, injured foot and all, is still Kobe Bryant.
He can still score, and after falling to the Nowitzki-less Mavericks, it's clear the Lakers need him to score more than ever.
Though the Black Mamba shot an efficient 11-of-14 from the field in Los Angeles' opening-night loss, the team needs to ensure that he remains the focal point of the offense, not Dwight Howard.
Yes, Bryant attempted more shots than Howard, and yes, he scored more points than he did as well.
But that's not enough.
Kobe has always been chastised for taking too many shots, yet the fact remains he's the Lakers' most proven scorer and putting the ball in his hands—especially down the stretch—keeps it out of Howard's, whose poor free-throw shooting can inflict losses.
So while the point of assembling this super team was to alleviate the offensive burden that has been on Bryant's shoulders for the past two decade, Steve Nash and the Lakers cannot afford to run the offense through anyone but him.
Not yet, anyway.
Increase Use of Pick-and-Rolls
Los Angeles has a bevy of pick-and-roll scenarios it can run through, yet it continues to be under-utilized.
Not only are Dwight Howard and Steve Nash the most efficient pick-and-roll center and point guard in the league, but the Lakers have two versatile scorers in Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol as well.
Simply put, the pick-and-roll possibilities are endless.
Yet in the team's opening loss, they seemed more focused on running a structured offense—again, Nash included—than working with what the defense gave them.
And that's a problem.
Los Angeles has so many offensive weapons, scorers who thrive in pick-and-roll sets.
If it cannot learn how to use that reality to it advantage—how to exploit defenses using one of its greatest offensive strengths—then a championship, let alone a the beginning of a dynasty, will prove to be out of reach.
Run the Floor More
The Lakers had seven fast-break points against the Mavericks.
Let that sink in.
Los Angeles, a team with two of the most mobile big men in the league in Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, one of the most elusive point guards the Association has ever seen in Steve Nash and a transitional connoisseur in Kobe Bryant, scored just seven fast-break points.
Again, this needs to change.
I understand that Bryant is nursing a sore right foot and that Howard is still working his way back from an injured back, but this team needs to run.
Because it's built to run.
Seven fast-break points for any team led by Nash is inexcusable, which pretty much sums up Los Angeles' loss to Dallas—inexcusable. Factor in that this team has three other stars who thrive in transition, and such a number is unforgivable.
It's a number that must be anything but reoccurring if the Lakers wish to reach their full potential, contend for a championship and ultimately build a dynasty.