LA Lakers Players Under the Most Pressure in 2013-14
They say pressure bursts pipes, and the Los Angeles Lakers have two stars under a mountain of pressure to perform.
While Kobe Bryant may get a pass due to his return from a severe Achilles tendon injury, both Pau Gasol and Steve Nash will need to bring their best this season in order for the Lakers to make a playoff push.
Especially after undergoing such a disappointing 2012-13 season, Nash is going to have to stay durable and healthy throughout the upcoming campaign while producing quality numbers.
For Gasol, the 2013-14 season is a chance for him to reassert himself as the alpha male in the paint after having to share the interior with Dwight Howard last season.
Alongside Bryant, both Nash and Gasol will have to anchor a supporting cast that has replaced a lot of veteran talent with very raw prospects.
While his averages of 13.7 points and close to nine rebounds per game last season are nothing to scoff at, they certainly pale in comparison to his career averages of 18.4 points and over nine rebounds per game.
Playing in only 49 games last season, Gasol had a hard time finding a rhythm because of his inability to stay on the court and the inconsistency of the system that Mike D'Antoni was trying to implement.
Despite his shortcomings last season, most of the pressure was on Dwight Howard. The purported savior of the franchise, his acquisition didn't bring the Lakers to contender status like it was supposed to.
Without Howard this season, Gasol will be the primary option in the paint on both ends of the court.
Tasked with being the interior scorer as well as the rim protector, Gasol will have to stay healthy and perform up to his past expectations in order to acquire any sort of redemption for last year's mishaps.
As versatile and skilled as he is, Gasol is coming off a litany of injuries and is well into his 30s. It'll be hard for him to produce the way he once did when the Lakers captured their most recent two titles in 2009 and 2010.
The severity of Bryant's injury means that it would be a surprise if Bryant can return to form and be the player he once was. This means that the pressure is allocated to Gasol because Bryant is going to have a pass as he works his way back into shape.
Although it's up for debate as to whether or not Gasol has ever wilted under the Los Angeles spotlight, he will have to take on a bigger leadership role while still maintaining his production and durability.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of last season was Nash's inability to make a true impact despite the excitement and hype surrounding his signing.
While his 12.7 points, nearly seven assists and 43.8 percent shooting from three-point land were decent averages in the 32.5 minutes per game he played, Nash only suited up for 50 games last season.
Not only is Nash now expected to live up to the hype, but he also has to exceed initial expectations due to the talent drop on the roster this season.
Missing a huge chunk of games last season and playing in only 62 games during his final season in Phoenix, Nash's body seems to be slowly failing him.
Approaching 40, Nash is going to have to take on this mounting pressure and try to produce as a focal point of the offense despite the mileage on his legs.
The pressure is especially heightened due to the fact that the Black Mamba may not be as productive as he was last season. Even in a facilitating role, Bryant can't be expected to produce like he has in the past until he shows he can do so.
This means that Nash will once again be the primary distributor. While this is something Nash has thrived at, he needs to prove he has the ability to run a team again after last year's disaster.
There are some factors that could help Nash live up to expectations and thrive under the pressure. With an influx of young guards such as Jordan Farmar and Nick Young, Nash may not have to play an overabundance of minutes.
Who is under the most pressure?
This could help Nash stay healthy and rested in order to really produce during his minutes on the court.
Another factor that could really help Nash is the fact that Mike D'Antoni will have a whole training camp to finally implement his system.
If D'Antoni decides to revert to his old run-and-gun system, there is no point guard more capable of running this system than Nash himself.
Having a familiar system in an uptempo offense could help Nash get comfortable as well as avoid the physical grind of the half-court set.
If Nash can keep his conditioning up, an uptempo offense could really help Nash avoid potential injuries in the same way the San Antonio Spurs have quickened the pace to protect their aging veterans.
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