How L.A. Lakers Can Make a Splash in the First Week of the NBA Season
The L.A. Lakers can make a splash during the start of the NBA season the same way any other team can. The L.A. Lakers need to win.
After a loss against the Mavericks in the season opener, the Lakers have shown flashes of very efficient play out of the Princeton offense. However, flashes of brilliance were outweighed by a very clear display of all their weaknesses.
Steve Nash was soundly outplayed by Darren Collison and wasn't able to take advantage of his exemplary court vision and passing ability due to the Lakers' inability to balance the standard pick and roll, and the complex Princeton offense.
While Dwight Howard put in solid production on the glass and on the scoreboard, his 11 missed free throws may have effectively kept the Lakers out of the game.
Furthermore, Kobe Bryant's efficient 22 points on 11 of 14 shooting may be misleading. Though he was a very effective scorer in the Lakers' new offensive scheme, he only contributed one rebound and failed to register a single assist.
A part of his lack of contributions on the stat sheet may be due to his foot injury. Despite the obvious pain he had to endure during the game, Bryant has never been one to make excuses.
Although the Princeton offense is a motion offense centered around screens and cuts while working out of the post, Nash's four assists and Bryant's zero are clear signs that the offense may not be the best fit for this team.
The only Lakers' starter to have an exemplary game was Pau Gasol, registering 23 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks.
This is to be expected as passing big men are a premium in motion offenses such as the Triangle offense or the Princeton offense.
The problem that might prevent the Lakers from making a splash in the opening week, and maybe even the entirety of the season, is that the extremely talented pool of players the Lakers have may not be a perfect fit for the Princeton offense.
In equal opportunity offenses such as the Princeton offense, the ideal line up would consist of passing big men.
Furthermore, equal opportunity offenses do not necessarily require an exemplary point guard to stimulate the offense because they are based on motions, screens and post play.
Although Gasol is an excellent passer, Howard is not.
This offense will mitigate the passing abilities of Nash while exploiting Howard's unproven passing abilities.
However, Princeton issues aside, in order for the Lakers to start winning games, they're going to have to conform to an offense system.
Due to their offensive confusion, they did not end up utilizing their impressive low post advantage over the likes of Eddy Curry.
Furthermore, they never really got up and down the court and used Nash and Howard's impressive skills on the fast break.
They looked tentative and confused on offense, which is a result of implementing a new system. Regardless of whether the system will maximize their talent pool or not, they're going to need to conform to one style or another and stick with it.
Even more importantly, they are going to have to play better defense.
Howard did not appear at 100 percent, and an indication of his struggles were the six fouls he accumulated trying to regain his former Defensive Player of the Year form.
Nash has never been an excellent defender for any stretch of his career, and his teammates are going to have to help him from getting torched by young point guards like Collison.
The Lakers have a lot of kinks to work out during the first few weeks, but in order to make a truly memorable splash in the initial stretch, they're going to have to do the little things well that have nothing to do with implementing a new system.
Firstly, the Lakers must hit their free throws. Their horrendous free throw shooting, notably from Howard and Jordan Hill, kept them out of the game during the second half.
Secondly, they are going to have to help each other on defense.
Chalking up 99 points to the Dallas Mavericks isn't too horrendous, but consider that they were playing without their low post presence in Chris Kaman and their best scorer in Dirk Nowitzki.
With Howard rounding into the form, the Lakers have the talent to be terrors on defense. If they can become a juggernaut on that end of the floor, their offense will eventually take care of itself.
In retrospect, the implementation of the Princeton may not be the Lakers' biggest concern. Perhaps settling on a simpler offensive scheme around Nash's ability orchestrating the pick and roll, and a higher emphasis on defense is the key to the Lakers' success.
Regardless of all the speculation, championship aspirations are always spurred by team chemistry and stifling defense, two variables that the Lakers are still working on.
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