The 2012-13 Season as Told by a Lakers Fan in Severe Denial
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When you really think about it, the Lakers did rather well considering how things went. Things that, oh by the way, were completely out of their control.
Like all the injuries they were saddled with, for instance. Not a single player played all 82 games for the Purple and Gold. Or even 80.
Even guys who suited up in a majority of L.A.'s contests did so valiantly, playing through pain.
That's standard operating procedure for Kobe Bryant, but Dwight Howard didn't get enough credit for coming back in time for the start of the season and playing even while his back was still healing from surgery last year. And on top of that, he had to fight through recurring shoulder injuries as well.
Metta World Peace returned, remarkably, from knee surgery in less than two weeks to rejoin his teammates for the final playoff push.
Antawn Jamison is scheduled to undergo surgery on his injured wrist in the offseason, but he refuses to miss any time.
Steve Nash has tried to do everything he can to stay on the court, resorting to taking three injections just to ease his pain enough to play in the postseason.
Their projected preseason starting lineup—you remember, the one that appeared to absolutely dominate on paper—combined to miss an entire season's worth of games and only started together a grand total of seven times.
Sure, they lost all seven of those games, but when you don't play together for weeks at a time the chemistry just isn't there.
That was the biggest negative of all those injuries—the way it robbed the Lakers of any semblance of cohesion.
The 2012 Lakers looked much different than the 2011 version. They didn't just add Dwight Howard and Steve Nash; they also signed Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks with significant roles in mind. And Jordan Hill had yet to be fully integrated into L.A.'s rotation.
With so many new parts, the Lakers needed time to jell, and they didn't get it because of those inconvenient injuries.
Only one five-man lineup played even 200 minutes together for the Lakers, according to NBA.com/stats (subscription required).
Gay didn't play his first game for the Raptors until February.
On top of all that turmoil came the coaching change.
The Lakers entered the season with a new team and a new system (the Princeton offense). They had to get acclimated not just to each other, but to the new philosophy as well.
Five games into the season, that was gone. Out went Mike Brown, and after a brief five-game stint for Bernie Bickerstaff, in came Mike D’Antoni—bringing with him a whole new system for the Lakers to learn on the fly.
Without a training camp, mind you.
Thanks to the injuries, the Lakers' principal players were never healthy at the same time to learn how to run their new schemes together. The personnel on the roster wasn't a good fit for D'Antoni's up-tempo, spread pick-and-roll attack either.
Pau Gasol never seemed to fit in, no thanks to D'Antoni dissing him almost on arrival. The Lakers played much better with only one of their twin towers on the floor at a time, negating the biggest advantage L.A. had over their competition.
The Lakers were never afforded the health, stability and cohesion to carve out an identity for themselves.
Did they want to play fast or slow? Launch three-pointers or pound it in the post?
Bryant vacillated between being a scorer and a facilitator. Nash—the man who led the league in assists in five of the previous eight seasons—played off the ball and posted his lowest assist and usage rates in 13 years.
And yet, despite all the obstacles and drama and constant media scrutiny, the Lakers persevered.
After a 17-25 start that had the city in full-fledged panic mode, L.A. played .700 basketball down the stretch, winning 28 of their final 40 games (including eight of their last nine) to not just reach the postseason, but pass the Houston Rockets for the seventh seed in the West.
That's quite an accomplishment for a team that had everything go wrong for them all season long.
And in the end, it was almost better that the Lakers endured such a rough go of it, considering that Bryant succumbed to a torn Achilles tendon that ended his 2012-13 campaign and kept him from competing in the playoffs.
Imagine if the Lakers had steamrolled their way to 65 wins and lost their leader to a fluke injury just before the postseason. What a crushing blow that would be to a team expected to contend for, if not win, a 17th NBA title.
If fate had such an end in store for Bryant, it renders the whole season irrelevant for the Lakers.
That's why the 2012-13 season wasn't as big a disaster as everyone has tried to make it out to be.
Take it from a Lakers fan (in severe denial).
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