For the Los Angeles Lakers, the 82-game regular season can seem like a formality, as the team anxiously awaits to defend its championship this spring. However, the regular season is not something to be taken lightly. There are many things the Lakers can accomplish to better their chances of winning a third-straight championship.
While the Lakers have much bigger goals than winning one regular-season game, there is no sense in giving the Heat confidence, and sparking a turnaround to their disappointing start of the season.
The Celtics come to Staples Center on Jan. 30 for the first meeting between the two teams since last year's NBA Finals. Come on, even if it is just one game out of 82, beating the Celtics carries more significance for the Lakers.
Ron Artest earns his money on the defensive end of the court. To this point, he has done a tremendous job as the Lakers' go-to defensive player. However, he still struggles on the offensive end. I know he hit huge shots in the playoffs last year and the Lakers probably wouldn't have won the championship without them.
However, his indecisiveness on offense often stagnates the offense. If Artest can become a threat on the offensive end, in addition to his defensive brilliance, the Lakers become that much better.
To start the season, the Lakers are making a high percentage of their three-point shots. However, their current pace cannot be expected to continue. Last season, the Lakers were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in basketball. However, in some games the Lakers still continued to shoot a high number of three-point shots.
The Lakers need to avoid falling in love with their early season hot streak and stick to the triangle offense.
While the Lakers are an outstanding offensive rebounding team, they are very average on the defensive end. Their defensive rebounding will improve once Andrew Bynum returns, but the Lakers cannot expect to win another championship without improving their rebounding.
Really, there is no reason to legitimately worry right now about a Western Conference foe challenging the Lakers in a seven-game series. With that being said, the Spurs, Hornets, and Jazz look like much improved teams this season. Not to mention, the young Thunder are always a concern.
The Lakers need to take care of business and separate themselves in the Western Conference standings to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
When the Lakers are able to build big leads against teams, the starters often get to rest the entire fourth quarter. By beating up on the weaker teams early and often, the starting five will get to enjoy more of this rest, which will payoff when the playoffs roll around.
Obviously, this is out of the Lakers' control. But if Bynum can remain healthy when he returns around Christmas, the Lakers are in great position to win their third-straight championship.
In addition, when Bynum is healthy, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol are not forced to play so many minutes.
Unfortunately, the Lakers really can't control injuries, except for trying to limit the starter's minutes as much as possible.
For superstition's sake, we should all knock on wood right this second.
After all, the dreaded injury bug is one of the only things that can derail the Lakers' bid for three-straight championships.
Securing home-court advantage throughout the playoffs is crucial to the Lakers winning the championship again this season. The last two seasons, the Lakers did not have the best record in the league, but were still lucky enough to have home-court advantage in the Finals against Orlando and Boston.
Instead of having to rely on other teams losing in the playoffs, the Lakers need to secure the league's best record this season to ensure home-court advantage in every round of the playoffs.