There’s never a dull moment when dealing with the Los Angeles Lakers.
As always, L.A. has been one of the most talked-about teams in the NBA over the summer. The coverage of Kobe Bryant’s Achilles injury, Dwight Howard’s departure and Mike D’Antoni’s status on the sidelines has taken up much of the offseason buzz.
Right now, however, a heavy cloud of misconception surrounds the team.
The Lakers will be a postseason team
D12 left for greener pastures after a wildly disappointing 2012-13 campaign, and suddenly the team that was co-favored, per the Los Angeles Times, to win a title last year is now ranked 12th in the Western Conference by ESPN.
Let’s take a quick look at the roster Coach D’Antoni will be dealing with this season and determine whether or not L.A. will be as bad as it’s projected to be.
Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and when he’s at 100 percent, he’ll be dominant. Pau Gasol is an elite post player and one of the best passing big men in the league (his 4.1 assists per game last season led all power forwards). And even though he’s approaching 40 years old, Steve Nash is a future Hall of Famer with some game left in him.
Wesley Johnson is a hungry, young and freakishly athletic wingman, while Nick Young is a swagger-filled three-point assassin who will thrive in D’Antoni’s offense. Jordan Hill is an emerging power forward who hits the glass like a madman, and Chris Kaman is a brutish center willing to do the dirty work outside of the spotlight.
Does this sound like a bad team?
No, it doesn’t—and that’s because the Lakers are going to be good.
The fact that they’re being blatantly disrespected by the media—CBS Sports also has Los Angeles ranked at 19th in their NBA power rankings—will only serve as fuel for a team led by one of the most driven athletes in the world.
Throw all of these rankings, predictions and criticisms out the window. With a healthy Bryant, the Lakers are going to be a playoff team.
Kobe Bryant is actually a human being
I’ve never doubted Kobe.
The idea that he wouldn’t return from his injury as the same elite player has never occurred to me. He’s the Black Mamba, after all.
But he’s also human.
Early on in the summer, it was rumored, per Arash Markazi of ESPN, that Bryant could be back as early as opening night, which would’ve revolutionized the recovery process for Achilles injuries. However, that really does not seem like a possibility right now.
The Mamba must sit out and only return when he’s at 100 percent and able to produce at the level he has for 18 years, as the outcome of Los Angeles’ season is riding on his health.
The Lakers have a good roster with pieces that seem to fit perfectly, but without Bryant at the center of it all, the chances of getting a 2014-15 lottery pick are better than making a playoff run.
At times, it seems as though Bryant is a cold-blooded monster from another basketball universe. And because of that, he’s often expected to do superhuman things.
But right now, he’s as human as he’s ever been and will need more time to recover from this injury.
Mike D’Antoni is not a bad coach
I know that some Lakers fans are gritting their teeth and shaking their fists while reading that subheading, but it’s true.
Although he isn't Phil Jackson, Mike D’Antoni is not a bad coach.
Did he show it in his first season with the Lakers last year? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean Mikey D hasn’t thrived in the NBA before.
In five seasons with the Phoenix Suns, D’Antoni won 26 playoff games, coached Nash to two MVP awards, averaged over 105 points per game every season and was named Coach of the Year in 2004. Although he finished with a losing record after three-and-a-half seasons on the New York Knicks’ sidelines, D’Antoni is no scrub.
Even during those years in N.Y., D’Antoni had his team putting up nearly 103 points a night.
Young, Johnson and Jordan Farmar will all bring tons of energy to the court and allow the team to push the tempo at a more consistent rate. But that won’t be their only roles.
Johnson will look to fill the defensive void left by Metta World Peace, Young will serve as the team’s three-point shooter, and Farmar will give D’Antoni flexibility in monitoring Nash’s minute total.
Then there’s Gasol and Nash, who were tailor-made for each other, running the pick-and-roll. And of course Bryant will do what he’s always done once he’s healthy.
D’Antoni is in line for a huge bounce-back year after having the luxury of a full offseason, training camp and preseason to work with.
Let the games begin...
Despite all of the doubt being heaped upon them, the Lakers, lead by a healthy Bryant, will make a strong postseason push this season.
And the much-maligned man on the sidelines will do a better job with a roster that fits his uptempo coaching style.
After a big-time lapse last season, the Lakers are going to get back to being the Lakers again in 2013-14.