After a busy offseason that featured a trade for Dwight Howard and the signing of Steve Nash, the Lakers entered the 2012-13 season as strong contenders for an NBA championship. Yet, in losing 99-91 to the shorthanded Dallas Mavericks in last night's season opener, the team looked like anything but one of the elite.
Careless mistakes, poor free-throw shooting and a lack of on-court chemistry sunk the team from the second quarter and on.
Granted, this was the first game of the season after a winless preseason, and star guard Kobe Bryant started after not practicing for a week due to a strained and bruised foot, but that's not the point. This team now is deeper than it has been in years and should have taken the Mavs to school last night.
It's just one game and way too early for fans to be freaking out, especially given the fact that the Miami Heat lost the first game their Big Three played together. Still, the basketball the Lakers played last night is so unlike what we as fans have grown used to seeing from them that it's only natural that people are concerned.
Needless to say, coach Mike Brown needs to make some adjustments so that the season isn't prematurely labeled a disappointment.
The Lakers brought Jamison to the team so that he could be the team's sixth man, but last night it was as though the 14-year veteran was a reserve player at the end of the bench.
He logged just 15 minutes and scored five points while grabbing five rebounds. Considering how Jamison averaged 17.2 points per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season and was named Sixth Man of the Year after playing for the Dallas Mavericks in 2004, the way he was handled last night is just plain insulting.
Simply put, if the Lakers want to be better than Miami they need to utilize their bench to its full potential. Jamison may be nearing the end of his career at age 36, but he can clearly still play. His numbers from last season prove that.
However, Brown is treating him as a mere bench shooter instead of someone more than capable of playing starters' minutes. Jamison needs to get at least 20 minutes a game—maybe more—if he is to be the sixth man the Lakers need.
He doesn't have to put up a lot of points, but his presence for an extended period of time is enough to at least diversify the team's offense.
To win a basketball game, a team has to take good care of the ball. The Lakers did a terrible job of that by committing 14 turnovers. The Mavericks took advantage of those mistakes and scored 17 points off of them.
Looking back at the Lakers' performance, the turnovers can be attributed to trying a bit too hard to get Dwight Howard involved. He and Metta World Peace committed three turnovers apiece and while Howard has been turnover-prone his entire career, he can at least make up for it by scoring lots of points and grabbing significant rebounds. World Peace, on the other hand, is little more than a pest at this point and has no business trying to do too much with the ball.
Simply put, it's easy for the Lakers to correct this mistake. All they need to do is make sure that everyone knows their role, which brings us to their next problem...
The Lakers brought Steve Nash aboard because aside from being a one of the best leaders in the NBA, he has the passing skills to help turn every player on the Lakers into a threat.
Last night, however, he looked nothing like the Nash who starred in the fast-paced offense of the Phoenix Suns the past eight seasons. Over that stretch, the future Hall of Famer averaged 16.3 points and 10.9 assists per game.
It's understandable that Nash is now in a different system and isn't going to put up incredible numbers like he did in Phoenix, but his performance last night was so unlike him that it's impossible to not bring it up. The 49 percent career shooter shot 3 of 9 from the field and dished out just four assists. Normally fiery and tenacious on the floor, it was as though he was half asleep.
Simply put, if the Lakers are to build off of last night's loss, Nash has to be more aggressive on offense and create more plays. Seven points and four dimes in 35 minutes is simply unacceptable.
He has some of the best players in the league at his disposal and if he doesn't take advantage of his situation while also taking some initiative when he has the ball, it's going to be a long season for everyone in LA.
Considering how Kobe Bryant hadn't practiced in a week entering last night's game, his overall performance was pretty impressive as he scored 22 points on 11 of 14 shooting.
However, any NBA fan knows that the Black Mamba is more than just a scorer. On the other side of the court, he has averaged 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game, earning nine spots on the All-Defensive First Team in the process.
However, even with his injury, Bryant's effort on the defensive end last night was just sad. He grabbed just one rebound and steal apiece. Whether it was because of his sore foot or that he felt Dwight Howard could shoulder the brunt of the defensive effort, it's still no excuse for his poor performance.
Bryant is one of the best players in league history because of his great all-around game. If he throws defense out the window just because he now has Howard as a teammate, then there is no hope for the Lakers at all.
By most measures, the Lakers should have won last night's game by a large margin. The Mavericks were without star forward Dirk Nowitzki and new center Chris Kaman, having replaced them in the starting lineup with Elton Brand and Brandan Wright.
Yet, instead of dominating throughout the game, the Lakers started crumbling in the second quarter and never recovered. From that point on, they were outscored 74-62 and just looked lost.
More importantly, they had trouble keeping up with the Mavericks while on defense. The fact that Eddy Curry, of all people, was able to score seven points and get four rebounds makes the loss all the more unacceptable.
Simply put, the Lakers went in cocky and learned the hard way that there are no guarantees in basketball. Once they realize that they can be beat just like any other team, then they'll finally start finding the formula for success with their new lineup.