But the Lakers have more mystery surrounding them this season than they are accustomed to, whether it’s the hiring of Mike Brown as coach, Lamar Odom being traded or the constant questions surrounding superstar Kobe Bryant.
Here are seven questions facing the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2011-12 season.
The answer to this question is currently unknown . But as of today, it’s certainly a possibility. Right now, the Lakers' two best bench players are Metta World Peace and Steve Blake, both of whom are coming off underwhelming 2010-11 campaigns.
Otherwise, the team will be relying on the trio of Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono and possible contributions from first-year (Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock) and second-year players (Devin Ebanks, Derrick Caracter).
Contrary to what some believe, the Lakers starting five is still formidable, led by Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. But the contribution from the bench this season will ultimately be the difference in the team seriously competing for a championship and being eliminated early from the postseason for the second straight season.
This question has been asked a million times, a million ways. But yet, it remains a very reasonable one.
Not only is Brown replacing the best coach in league history, but after the Lamar Odom trade, he is working with a less talented roster than originally thought.
Brown is beginning what could possibly be one of the toughest coaching gigs in recent memory.
If he can keep everything from imploding in year one, I think he will be good to go.
But if the Lakers struggle to remain relevant this season, all of the blame will go to Brown, whether it’s warranted or not.
Running a new offense under Mike Brown will demand more quality production from the point guard position than the triangle offense did under Phil Jackson.
Which means having Derek Fisher as the starting point guard is even more dangerous now than ever. Does Brown eventually try Steve Blake as the starter? Darius Morris is an option. But it’s a little much to ask a rookie point guard to lead a team expected to contend for a championship.
Unless the team makes a change, the point guard woes that have plagued them for the better part of a decade will likely continue.
The answer to this question is an emphatic NO, especially if the team doesn’t trade for a superstar before season’s end to make-up for the transaction. Then, I still wouldn’t be convinced it was smart to trade Lamar Odom.
Odom would be in the starting lineup for nearly every NBA team. The Lakers had the advantage of him coming off their bench.
Along with losing the league’s top sixth man, the team also lost its biggest “X” factor.
In the past, when Odom played well, the entire team tended to play well.
But at least the Lakers got some decent players in return...oh wait.
Just when Pau Gasol thought he had finally shaken off the dreaded “soft” tag so many fans have labeled him with, the four-time All-Star played the worst basketball of his career in last spring’s postseason, failing to reach his regular season scoring average one time in 10 playoff games.
Now, fans have firmly reapplied the dreaded tag to Gasol.
Pau now has to work extra hard to convince teammates and fans last season’s slump was an aberration. What could make this more tough on Gasol’s psyche is the fact he knows the team was going to trade him earlier in the offseason in the eventually vetoed Chris Paul trade.
Before training camp started on December 9, there were already plenty of questions surrounding Kobe Bryant heading into the new season. Is he too old to lead the Lakers to another championship? How will his newly repaired right knee hold up? Will he co-exist with new head coach Mike Brown?
But since training camp started, new questions have been added to the mix. For instance, how will Kobe juggle basketball and his newly announced divorce? Also, it was announced Wednesday afternoon Kobe has a torn wrist ligament, suffered in Monday’s exhibition game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
So, how will Kobe’s 2011-12 season be remembered? As the one where we could officially eliminate Kobe from the list of the league’s absolute elite players.
Or, the one where Kobe saw a resurgence in his overall play despite a laundry list of obstacles to overcome?
The last few seasons, fans of the Los Angeles Lakers have found themselves in one of two parties. One believing Andrew Bynum is a franchise player who has yet to break out thanks to his numerous injuries. And the other thinking he is nothing more than injury prone and ultimately inconsistent when healthy.
This will be the season Bynum proves either his supporters or detractors completely wrong. Sports fans often talk about windows of opportunity. And Bynum’s could be closing if he doesn’t emerge as an All-Star this season.
He is currently injury free and coming off the best stretch of basketball of his career at the end of last season.
It’s time to put up or shut up for Mr. Bynum. Otherwise, he could best be remembered for his time spent off the floor with injuries than anything he has accomplished on the court.