Why the LA Lakers Are Still Worth Watching This Season
The Los Angeles Lakers promise to be worth watching during the 2013-14 season because of their entertainment value.
The Purple and Gold will play an uptempo offense that will maximize the talents of the vast majority of their players. Consequently, one should expect Los Angeles to consistently produce scores with triple digits.
Although it might sound like a dead giveaway, in actuality, it is not. Knowing that the Lakers will put up points is one thing, but actually seeing it unfold is entirely different.
Keep in mind, we still have to figure out how all of these points are going to get scored. Luckily for you all, yours truly already has the answers.
The Mike D’Antoni Factor
Mike D'Antoni of the LA Lakers
Teams coached by Mike D’Antoni have always been fun to watch because of the fast pace at which they play. Furthermore, he loves the idea of playing one big man and surrounding him with shooters and ball-handlers to exploit defenses.
D’Antoni uses the spread pick-and-roll offense, which forces the opposition to dive into the paint and guard the rolling big man. From there, the perimeter players are presented with open looks from three-point range or angles that make drives to the hoop quite favorable.
His offense provides entertainment, and it’s worth noting that he has a roster built for it. His players are all moving in the same direction and have shown during the preseason that they are quite content with the philosophy.
The Nick Young Experience
Nick Young of the LA Lakers
Nick Young has always been an interesting player by virtue of his shot selection and ball-handling skills.
The former Philadelphia 76er flashed these facets during the 2013-14 preseason and looked good in doing so. Mike D’Antoni has encouraged him to continue looking for his shot, which means we will be getting large doses of Young during the regular season.
The 2-guard will attack defenders off the dribble from the wing and then pull up for a series of jumpers from mid-range or downtown. And every now and then, whenever opponents play him for the shot, he will burn them and get to the hoop and score.
Pau Gasol Resurgence
After an awful 2012-13 season when he was relegated to the perimeter, Pau Gasol will once again become a back-to-the-basket player.
Gasol will still drift out to the high post on occasion, but the 2013-14 campaign will see him play on the block and punish defenders with his exquisite set of post moves. Indeed, few players can match his combination of footwork and touch around the rim.
The Spaniard will regain his All-Star form and remind fans what a great low-post player actually looks like.
Xavier Henry lifts off.
Xavier Henry spent the 2013-14 preseason playing recklessly on offense, and yet he looked like a solid reserve in the process.
He attacked the basket regardless of the number of defenders standing in his way. In addition, he launched long-range shots with little regard for the shot clock. Clearly he was given the green light by the coaching staff.
Consequently, expect him to come off the bench looking to terrorize defenses without necessarily following the script. In other words, he is a poor man’s version of Nick Young.
Everyone wins in that scenario.
Kobe Bryant Battles History
Although Kobe Bryant will be sidelined early in the season with an Achilles injury, he will rejoin the Lakers at some point. His return will likely be difficult at first because of rust.
Still, watching Bryant progressively reclaim his spot as the best player on the team will be incredibly compelling. Furthermore, once he regains his form, the offense will kick into high gear and overwhelm some of the lesser teams in the league.
Nick Young vs. Kobe Bryant
Nick Young and Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant will eventually recover from his Achilles injury and rejoin his teammates during the course of the season. Once he returns, he will find Nick Young playing perhaps the best basketball of his career.
There will not be any actual animosity between the players, but their respective games may very well end up clashing. Both like to freelance in the offense and settle for low-percentage shots.
This will be entertaining because they will occasionally end up frustrating each other by opting for a bad shot instead of a pass. Eventually, they will find a common ground and play in concert with each other, but the first few games will be intriguing because of their disconnect.
Steve Nash Wizardry
Steve Nash scans the floor.
Steve Nash’s ball-handling and passing skills are literally the stuff of legends. He gets to whatever spot on the floor he wants and then feeds teammates for great finishes at the basket.
That version of Nash was lost in 2012-13 due to injury and a change in offensive philosophy. However, in 2013-14, that player will be back.
The two-time MVP will dominate the ball once again (especially during the time Kobe Bryant is rehabbing from his Achilles injury) and make great things happen for both himself and his teammates.
Steve Blake the Enforcer?
The Los Angeles Lakers jettisoned Metta World Peace via the amnesty provision during the 2013 offseason, which resulted in the team lacking an enforcer.
Perhaps Jordan Hill will occupy this role, but the safer bet is Steve Blake. The backup point guard has a background in mixed martial arts; it is not a coincidence that no one ever tries to punk him.
Udonis Haslem of the Miami Heat confirmed as such in an interview on the Dan LeBatard show. The forward is one of the NBA’s leading tough guys, and he selected Blake as a member of his dark alley team.
With the Lakers devoid of “bad boys,” the responsibility might fall on Blake’s shoulders to serve and protect his teammates. For those that doubt his moxie, have a look at this.
A Passer’s Dream
Pau Gasol is a terrific passing big man.
Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are two of the best passers in the league at their respective positions, and consequently they will make the Lakers offense a fun passing one.
Indeed, during his time with the Phoenix Suns, Nash changed the culture and turned his teammates into willing passers. The two-time league MVP helped turned Boris Diaw into a great setup man because players around him expected tough passes and caught them for easy scores.
Gasol is more skilled than Diaw and will play that part in the Lakers offense. Expect a lot of cutting and backdoor actions, when the likes of Nash and Gasol can feed open players for gorgeous looks at the basket.