The preseason has come and gone for the Los Angeles Lakers, and with a new regular season right around the corner, there's plenty we still don't know about the Lakers' reassembled roster
What we do know is this: The Lakers went 4-4 during the preseason, which is far better than the 0-8 record they put up in 2012. The new-look rotation has a confidence when you watch them and that's going to be crucial when adversity hits during the regular season.
But while confidence is important, optimism can only get an NBA team so far when fighting for a spot in the playoffs. L.A. still has a handful of questions to address, and the sooner they can come up with answers, the better.
The Lakers took 205 shots from three-point range during the preseason. That's 31.4 percent of their total attempts, compared to just 23.7 percent in 2012-13.
The bigger problem is that the Lakers also completed just 31.4 percent of those shots—a drastic decrease from the 35.5 percent they nailed in their first season under Mike D'Antoni.
The ultimate question here is: How do the Lakers improve that percentage?
The first thing L.A. can do is get Steve Nash healthy. The point guard shot 43.8 percent from downtown in his inaugural season with the Lakers, and even though his shot totals were down, he knows how to drive and kick as well as anyone in the league.
Taking smarter shots has to be the focus overall for the Lakers. If players like Nick Young are taking smarter shots, it will decrease Los Angeles' shot attempts while increasing its percentage.
Then again, making that happen is easier said than done, which is why it's going to be a focus for D'Antoni once the regular season begins.
The Lakers ended the 2012-13 season with an average of 101 points allowed per contest. They were 22nd in the league in that category, and it could get worse in 2013-14.
Entering the season, the Lakers are without their top rebounder and shot-blocker, Dwight Howard. They're also without Metta World Peace, who could be a nuisance on the perimeter.
Don't forget, too, that this Lakers team will begin the season without Kobe Bryant, who has made nine All-Defensive First Teams and three All-Defensive Second Teams throughout his illustrious career.
During the preseason, L.A. gave up 99.9 points per game, ranking second-to-last in the conference. It's a better number than the Lakers averaged last season, but it must improve considering that L.A. scored just 96.4 points per game during exhibition play.
Who will step up defensively? We know it won't be Steve Nash or Nick Young, and Chris Kaman won't make fans forget about Howard anytime soon.
This is a question that must be answered early in the season because, as we know, defense wins championships.
Chris Kaman is a solid 7-footer who was brought in for the Lakers to soften the blow following the departure of Dwight Howard. It makes sense that Kaman led the team in rebounding during the preseason, but his numbers were far from elite in that category.
Kaman pulled down 7.8 boards per exhibition game. Behind him were Pau Gasol at 6.3 rebounds and Jordan Hill at 6.0.
During 2012-13, L.A. managed 44.8 rebounds per contest, which was good enough for fourth in the league. But again, the team had Howard camped in the middle of the paint pulling down a league-leading 12.4 rebounds per game.
The Lakers must be ready to fight down low on a regular basis. At least when Howard was in purple and gold, they had one of the top athletes in the game, even if he was less than 100 percent all season.
This Lakers team is aging quickly, and those players who lack the athleticism to make plays must be willing to work hard on the glass and earn their keep, game in and game out.
There's really no way we can answer the question of how health will impact the Lakers based off their preseason.
That said, it's still a concern entering 2013-14.
Kobe Bryant, despite leading many to believe this summer that he may be ready for the season opener, has been ruled out for the first game, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. In fact, McMenamin notes that Bryant's timeline has been "scaled back," leaving little indication as to when he will return.
Also noteworthy is McMenamin's statement from another piece, indicating that Steve Nash's status is "starting to cause concern." Don't forget that Pau Gasol missed 33 games last season and the simple fact that he hasn't gotten any younger.
Success for this L.A. team is going to depend on a number of variables, but health may be the biggest. There's no way to predict how many games a player will or won't play, but at this point in the process, finding a way to keep players healthy late in the season has to be a priority for the Lakers.
The Lakers' season will be broken up into two phases: B.K (Before Kobe) and A.K. (After Kobe).
If head coach Mike D'Antoni can create a rotation early that plays well together, fantastic. The real trick, however, will be in keeping the chemistry intact once the team's best player returns.
Not having Bryant early is a problem for the Lakers on the scoreboard, but it's an ever bigger problem when it comes to creating unity. Bryant is arguably the most demanding player left in today's NBA, and while nobody will claim L.A. is better without him, it's easy to picture an adjustment period taking place in Los Angeles once he returns.
Health aside, the No. 1 issue surrounding this organization is chemistry. We saw a new-look roster fail to jell during the 2012-13 season. Once everyone is healthy in 2014, the question will be whether or not the Lakers can click before their championship window officially closes.
They could surprise some people by the end of the 2013-14 season. However, the Lakers must first come together as a team once all of their pieces are back on the floor.