Health, Not Talent, Is LA Lakers' Biggest Roadblock to Making Playoffs
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
The Los Angeles Lakers’ streak of eight-straight playoff appearances is in serious jeopardy.
From the loss of Dwight Howard over the offseason to the uncertain timetable of Kobe Bryant’s return, the team is in somewhat of a mess. However, those are just the tip of the problems iceberg that the Lakers currently have.
But does that necessarily mean the team should all but be counted out in 2013-14?
Last year, a Los Angeles-Miami NBA Final was almost a sure thing. Many believed that basketball fans would certainly get the title matchup they all had longed for: Kobe vs. LeBron.
Unfortunately, the Lakers’ medical staff put in more time on the job than even Bryant himself. That’s saying something.
It’s also what makes the team’s health the only thing setting Los Angeles back from making a postseason run this year.
Injuries Alone Derailed Last Year’s Team
With a planned starting five that consisted of Steve Nash, Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Howard, the Lakers easily had one of the best rotations in the league last season. Not another team in the league could boast anything as such.
However, this five-man unit only played a combined total of 19 games together.
To make matters worse, these games were spread so far apart that the players never had the ability to form any kind of cohesion or chemistry on the court. As a result, Los Angeles was just 6-13 during these contests.
In total, nine different players were injured last year. There were 17 different injuries that spanned a total of 176 games.
Among the key losses were Jordan Hill (53 games), Steve Blake (37), Steve Nash (34) and Pau Gasol (33). That doesn’t even include Howard, who was coming off back surgery and dealt with a torn right labrum for much of the season. Not to mention, Bryant’s Achilles’ tear was just the perfect metaphorical cherry on top.
But nothing puts the Lakers’ deficiencies into context more clearly than pointing out two of the participants in the team’s top-two most-used lineups: Earl Clark and Darius Morris.
Getting to see Los Angeles’ 2012-13 squad play was building up to be one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for basketball fans. The team featured three locks for the NBA Hall of Fame and two other worthy candidates. However, injuries robbed us of that moment.
Instead, it left us settling to wonder “what if?”
Still Have One of the Best Cores in the League
Whatever happened last season is in the past. The Lakers are focused on the future.
Given their core, there’s a whole lot to be optimistic about.
Los Angeles has Nash. Although he may be 39, the 17-year veteran still has a lot to offer.
In 50 games last year, Nash put together a productive stat line, averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 assists. He also exceeded his career per-game averages in minutes played (32.5), field-goal percentage (49.7), three-point percentage (43.8) and free-throw percentage (92.2). Nash also took better care of the ball, recording his fewest amount of turnovers per game (2.5) since 2002-03.
Then there’s Gasol.
Sure, he put together his worst statistical performance of his career last season—his 13.7 points per game was almost four full points lower than his previous low of 17.4. However, Gasol is set to move back to the position he’s most comfortable in.
In three games at center last season, the 12-year veteran looked dominant, averaging 20 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. In comparison, he averaged just 13.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks at power forward.
The differences have held true throughout the years:
Finally, of course, there’s Bryant.
For years, he’s been one of the top contributors in the league. The critics and media will count him out, only to watch Bryant prove them wrong time and time again.
This time has been no different.
After there were rumors that he may never play again, Bryant has once again proved them wrong. According to ESPN Los Angeles’ Arash Markazi, the 15-time All-Star is way ahead of schedule.
There’s no doubt he will continue to give the Lakers the best chance to win when he returns.
Summing it All Up
Los Angeles will most likely fall short of winning another NBA title. In fact, Bryant may never get a chance to win that coveted sixth ring. However, counting this team out is not a wise decision.
When healthy, this Lakers squad can be a dangerous team. Ask any of their opponents this season if they’ll be taking them lightly. Chances are, they say no.
Los Angeles will make the playoffs this year.
And as long as Bryant is on the roster, the team will have a shot to make some noise.
All stats are courtesy of NBA.com’s Media Central (subscription required)
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?