Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers: Problems Deeper Than Expected
One of the few remaining dominant centers, and arguably one of the top players in the game, Howard had joined forces with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
Images of the great Shaquille O'Neal began to resurface, and, as expected by today's culture, championship predictions were being wagered amongst friends.
The only thing the Lakers World lacked was a preseason summer championship celebration.
It's probably a good thing none of the Lakers—especially Metta World Peace—grabbed microphones and started predicting exactly how many rings they were going to be adding to their jewelry box. The Lakers struggled early in the preseason, as expected for a team that has a plethora of new pieces to fit together.
At one point, the Lakers preseason roster was looking like a D-League tryout form. There was plenty of sifting through to be done, and Howard was still nursing his back from summer surgery.
And then finally, in unexpected fashion, the Lakers announced Howard would be in uniform against the Sacramento Kings in their sixth preseason game. Cheers rang loudly throughout the Staples Center as fans got their first glimpse of Superman in a 99-92 loss.
Following another loss to the Kings four days later, the Lakers would close out the preseason at an astonishing 0-8.
Chemistry issues were the fallback excuses that the national media favored. It was true. Several brand-new players were not only adjusting to each other, but also to the new Princeton offense installed by head coach Mike Brown.
Will the Lakers' problems linger all season?
This may be the downfall, hopefully short-term, for the Lakers. Without getting my clipboard out, what has been well documented in the Princeton offense is its initial pass to the opposite guard, which is, more times than not, Steve Nash to Kobe.
Following the pass, Nash proceeds to head to the weak-side corner. For the first time in his career, Nash is being taken directly out of the offensive flow. At his peak, Nash was arguably the best pick-and-roll point guard the game has ever seen.
Nash had seven points and four assists in the Lakers season opener against the Dallas Mavericks, a stat line that isn't representative of his presence, even with factoring in his age. The following night, Nash didn't even get the opportunity to redeem himself, after he was sent to the locker room minutes before halftime with what is being called a bruised left leg.
The offense hasn't hindered Howard much. In fact, we're seeing the All-Star, Orlando Magic version much earlier than expected. No clearer was it than on Wednesday against the Portland Trailblazers, when Howard put up an impressive 33 points and 14 rebounds.
Even more impressive was Howard's 15-19 performance from the charity stripe, an improvement Kobe stressed to the newcomer.
For the Lakers, it is a matter of determination and work ethic. Kobe has been through every situation, so when he speaks, the team listens.
And for the fans, too.
Kobe spoke with the media on Thursday and his message was, "Everybody shut up, Let us work."
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