The L.A. Lakers
The second half of the season should keep Los Angeles Lakers fans interested, given the implications for the team’s future. There are a multitude of reasons to keep tabs on the Lakers, and we will make sure to cover the most important ones.
The Purple and Gold project to miss the postseason, but the way the team plays the rest of the way will determine what moves the front office will make.
Thus, we will be looking at factors that are relevant for this season and also affect the team beyond this year.
Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant have always displayed a fighting spirit.
The remainder of this season will probably determine whether the Lakers opt to jettison their coach this offseason.
If the players display a competitive attitude throughout the course of the campaign, it certainly enhances the chances that Mike D’Antoni will be the man leading this team going forward.
However, in the event the Lakers show the proverbial white flag, it stands to reason that D’Antoni will be gone once the season ends. Management will likely want a headman who can motivate his players and get them to play hard on a consistent basis.
Steve Nash has been absent throughout the majority of the season, and as a result, there really is no way to determine his level of skill.
There is a possibility that the decline of his physical abilities has turned him into a below-average point guard. Then again, he has spent the better part of the campaign's first half resting with the intent of rejoining his teammates.
Therefore, Nash could potentially resemble the player fans saw in his last seasons with the Phoenix Suns. Watching him get back on the hardwood will help the team determine if a change is needed in the summer as far as the backcourt is concerned.
The trade deadline is technically scheduled a few weeks after the midway point of the season, which means the Lakers might be major players on this front.
The new collective bargaining agreement contains harsh penalties for teams that are repeat luxury-tax teams, and the Lakers as presently constructed are over the tax threshold. Hence, it would behoove the team to cut costs (the franchise started this process with the amnesty of Metta World Peace prior to the start of the season).
Players will get an opportunity to boost their value by performing at a high level and might become trade targets. More specifically, Pau Gasol’s contract could yield some tax relief if moved for smaller parts and drafts picks.
Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson of the L.A. Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers’ sub-.500 record suggests the unit is not a good one. Nonetheless, the style of play makes for an entertaining brand of basketball, and consequently, watching the Lakers perform is a fun exercise.
Mike D’Antoni entrusts his guys on offense to take the shots that are available, and they oblige.
They are trigger-happy from long distance, and also, the Lakers can uncork some highlights at the basket when they attack the paint with reckless aggression, usually courtesy of Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson.
Kobe Bryant and Nick Young of the L.A. Lakers
Nick Young is leading the Los Angeles Lakers in scoring despite coming off the bench. That’s great for the Purple and Gold because Young will remain in that very same role once Bryant rejoins the team (health permitting).
Bryant is the incumbent starter, which means that his tasks will remain unaffected by the play of Young. With that said, the second half of the season will give them an opportunity to play together and build chemistry.
The play of the duo will determine whether Young remains a Laker going forward. Indeed, if the twosome exhibits the ability to play well together, Young will enjoy his time in Los Angeles and likely remain with the team.
He can opt out of his deal and become a free agent at the end of the season.
Pau Gasol of the L.A. Lakers
Pau Gasol has been at his statistical worst under Mike D’Antoni. He has drifted to the perimeter, seen his aggressiveness diminish and openly complained about his role under his current coach.
The absence of Kobe Bryant this season has served as an impediment for the Spaniard, and it stands to reason that Bryant’s return will help him look a little better in the second half of the year.
Still, the evolution of Gasol should keep Lakers fans paying attention to the team. In the event he continues to play poorly by his standards, it might open up the door for the franchise to re-sign him on the cheap.
Mind you, if his game picks up in the second half of 2013-14, Gasol becomes an attractive piece for all of the teams in the league, which likely means Los Angeles will lose out on his services.
Kobe Bryant of the L.A. Lakers
Kobe Bryant has appeared in a mere six games during the first half of the season because of an Achilles tear and a fractured knee. Still, the future of Hall of Fame guard will be back this year.
Bryant will likely rejoin the Lakers around the All-Star break and slowly play himself back into shape. One has to believe that he will regain his elite status because that’s how he has dealt with every previous injury.
The former league MVP has conquered every challenge thrown his way during his career, and he will likely continue to do so. Although it may take some time for Bryant to regain his previous form, 2013-14 will serve as his platform to get there.
What’s more, Bryant must demonstrate he can play at a high level this season because the Lakers will be looking to sign a big free agent in the summer.
A washed-up Bryant would not help one bit in this endeavor. Mind you, a stud 2-guard makes it easier for a big name to join the franchise with the hope of competing for postseason appearances and titles.