NBA Season Preview: What to Watch for and Expect from the Lakers

Hayden Kim@@HayDayKimCorrespondent IIIDecember 23, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 19:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives to the basket on Metta World Peace #15 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on December 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  The Clippers beat the Lakers 114-95.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Christmas Day is approaching and all the news has naturally been centered towards the ever so appealing Christmas Day matchups. Usually around this time, the Los Angeles Lakers are warming up next to their fires, polishing up their championship rings and eating some homemade cookies. But not this year. This year, the Lakers—for the first time in a while—will instead lock themselves in their rooms and reflect upon the fact that they will most likely not be in the finals for two years in a row.

As the Lakers have aged, so have their chances of winning another title. If you haven't already heard, the Lakers—no joke—lost to their now potential "rival" neighbors, the Los Angeles Clippers, not once, but twice. Never has it looked so bad in the sense that Red-and-Blue seemed to reign over the Purple-and-Gold. Lob City may already be in full effect.

Now, due to a shortened 66-game season, the Lakers will be pushed up against a wall, and with early season injuries (Kobe Bryant wrist injury), the pressure to perform has never been higher. 

The Lakers do however, still have a more than viable starting five that they can rely on in Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron (I mean Metta World Peace), Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. But as most of you know, championship teams need something called a bench, and frankly, the Lakers don't really have one.

With the loss of Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, the Lakers as of now, will be worse than last year. As a failed attempt to acquire superstar center Dwight Howard failed, the Lakers are feeling the effects of what it feels like to go all-in and lose it all. Yes, Howard is still up for grabs, but for now, we can only speculate as to what the Lakers can do with what they have.

There will be two aspects in regards to this Lakers team, that we will have to watch over the coarse of the season: injuries and the production of the bench. As mentioned before, the possibilities of injuries could be an issue heading into the season, and with a limited depth chart, the Lakers may be in for a long rollercoaster ride.

With the rise of young teams, such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA—the Western Conference in particular—may experience a shift in power from old to new. Kobe just isn't what he used to be and however high the level of play is from Bynum and Gasol, there is only so much a group of five players can do. It looks more and more like giving up Odom and Shannon Brown was a real bad idea.

For now, the Lakers are about a two or three seed in the West and only—and I use only loosely—if the Lakers end up having a bench, can they have a chance of making it to the finals this season. But of course, winning it is a whole different story.

There is some good news though, and that is, the Lakers aren't alone in this battle against Father Time. As you know, the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics are in the same situation and as logic would say, as one team in the same era goes down, so will the others. The Lakers may be heading into a time of rebuilding, but as always, they will figure a way out. Dwight Howard on late notice anyone?