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Dwight Howard: Lakers Still Have On-Court Work to Do to Be Championship Caliber

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IAugust 15, 2012

EL SEGUNDO, CA - AUGUST 10:  Dwight Howard speaks after being introduced to the media as the newest member of the Los Angeles Lakers during a news conference at the Toyota Sports Center on August 10, 2012 in El Segundo, California. The Lakers aquired Howard from Orlando Magic in a four-team trade. In addition Lakers wil receive Chris Duhon and Earl Clark from the Magic.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Slow down championship-planning Laker fans, this team still has plenty to iron out before they will be ready to hoist another Larry O'Brien trophy. 

Obviously, with as much talent as the Lakers boast, a championship is a very real possibility, but they have to get that talent to gel, and that is not going to be an easy task. 

Kobe and Nash

The most glaring adjustment actually has nothing to do with Howard, and everything to do with Kobe Bryant. With the addition of Steve Nash, the all-time great is going to have to get used to playing without the ball. This is not a role Kobe is accustomed to. 

Last season, Kobe's usage rate of 35.67 percent easily led the league. This is not out of the ordinary for Kobe. He has never played with a point guard that sets his team up in the offense. The role of the point guard alongside Kobe has largely been to get the "Mamba" the ball, and hit outside jumpers when someone kicks it out to them. 

This would be a terrible misuse of Nash's talents. While he can drill open shots all game long, he has an even greater value by orchestrating the offense and getting the ball to his teammates in the best spot to succeed. 

Kobe has the ability to succeed in this role. He moves very well without the ball, and he will still have ample opportunities to break defenders down off the dribble. He just has to be comfortable with going a few possessions a game where he might not touch the rock at all. 

Dwight and Pau

Another aspect of the Lakers that is going to have to come together is the low post offense. Pau Gasol is a superior post player to Dwight Howard, and the Lakers will be at their best running their interior game through Gasol and having Howard around for dump offs and to clean up the offensive boards. 

Gasol's play suffered last season as Andrew Bynum became the focal point of the interior game. It will benefit the Lakers to have Gasol get that top-dog status back, but this will require an adjustment on Howard's part. 

He is not a player who is used to sharing the paint. He will have to accept this, and stay ready for those dump-off passes. 

Defense

These last two issues deal with the Lakers offense, and their offense figures to be the strength of their team; defense is another story. 

Don't get me wrong; Howard is a huge boost to the Lakers' defense. He is more astute, quicker and covers far more ground than Bynum ever could. 

While Bynum had a solid 1.9 blocks per game last year, he was often slow to cover or just plain out of position. This had a trickle-down effect on the defense, as a player would rotate over to stop a guard from penetrating, and the rest of the D would not rotate accordingly to fill the hole. 

While Dwight will be more effective at stopping opposing point guards flashing to the rim, and there will be a lot of them with Nash trying to stay in front of them, the Lakers still need to improve their team D. 

This is only going to come through communication, willingness and time. The Lakers must get better in their rotations and knowing when to rotate. 

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