Look out, history, here come the Los Angeles Lakers.
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won a record-setting 72 games in the 1995-96 season, but following a summer that was extremely kind to the Lakers, the regular season milestone could be in jeopardy before the team in L.A. has their final say.
The Lakers became contenders when they traded four draft picks for Steve Nash, but the decision to bring in Dwight Howard is what arguably put them over the top and made them one of the favorites in 2013.
Nash is a sure-fire Hall of Fame point guard, and Howard is arguably the best big man that the game has to offer.
Together, they could become one of the league's best pick-and-roll duos.
The starting five of the Lakers should prove to be the best in the entire NBA, but an improved bench will continue to push them to an even higher level.
Antawn Jamison was a steal this summer. As a 35-year-old last season, he averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He isn’t going to put up those numbers as Pau Gasol’s reserve, but he can spread the floor, pull down the boards and provide some serious relief that the team never found without Lamar Odom.
Even Jodie Meeks will be a big-time addition to their bench. The 25-year-old prospect will keep defenses honest with his shooting, and while his performance hasn’t been extraordinary up to this point, he’ll fill his role nicely, which is all fans in L.A. can ask for from their bench unit.
If the Miami Heat proved one thing two years ago, it’s that having a great offseason in no way creates an automatic record-setting performance.
That being said, they’ve also proven that a little time together and a few solid role players can make a world of difference, and the Lakers, who arguably have an even more balanced rotation, could see the same thing happen in the next few years.
What Will This Team Look Like?
The Lakers have a chance to be great next season, but if they can stick together for at least three years—the length of Nash’s current deal—they will be in prime position to chase history before their time together comes to an end.
While there are a number of factors to consider—Nash’s overall durability, Howard’s looming free agency and Kobe Bryant’s impending retirement—the Lakers will have one of the best facilitating point guards in the game, arguably the most dominant center in the league and one of the greatest of all time on the court together for the next few seasons.
While Jamison’s impact is likely to be felt more next year than down the road, players such as Meeks and Jordan Hill should continue their development and grow into their roles.
Bryant is still the leader of this team, but with Nash, Howard and Gasol by his side, the Big Four of the Lakers could prove to be one of the most dynamic groups in all of basketball.
All that being said, the new super team in L.A. certainly doesn’t come without questions.
Will Bryant and Nash be able to co-exist? Will team chemistry be an issue with so many stars occupying one court?
These are valid questions, but there are two things to consider when answering.
First, you have three NBA superstars who are beyond hungry to win an NBA championship. Nash has never been to an NBA Finals; Howard has a bitter taste in his mouth from his one and only appearance, and Bryant is ready to capture his sixth title—the one that will help shrink the gap between his own legacy and Jordan’s.
This team wants to win, and the best way to make that happen is by capturing home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
The other thing to consider is the brand-new system that will be in place for the Lakers next season.
While it’s easy to argue that the Princeton offense may not be the best way to utilize Howard, it’s going to create situations where constant passing and motion can create for easy opportunities.
Simply put: teamwork will be a must.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Bryant had this to say about the new offensive mentality:
It's exactly what we need. It takes us back to being able to play by making reads and reacting to defenses. It takes a great deal of communication, but that's where we're at our best: Reading and reacting as opposed to just coming down and calling sets. Calling sets make you vulnerable.
Bryant goes on to describe how this set will be perfect for Gasol, as he’ll be able to utilize his entire diverse skill set from the elbow.
How The Two Rosters Compare
The 1995-96 Bulls are widely regarded as the greatest team in NBA history. Jordan averaged 30.4 points per game; Dennis Rodman pulled down nearly 15 boards a contest, and they began the season 41-3 with an 18-game winning streak mixed in.
They even had the Sixth Man of the Year in Tony Kukoc and one of the greatest coaches of all time in Phil Jackson.
The 2012-13 Lakers? They’ve yet to even step on the court together.
We may not know exactly how the stars will blend in L.A., but we do know that they’ll have a go-to scorer in Bryant, a rebounding and shot-blocking machine in Howard and a point guard who can get the ball to any player on the floor in virtually any situation.
|Player (Chicago Bulls)||Position||Age||Player (L.A. Lakers)||Position||Age|
|Michael Jordan||SG||32||Kobe Bryant||SG||33|
|Scottie Pippen||SF||30||Metta World Peace||SF||32|
|Dennis Rodman||F||34||Pau Gasol||PF||32|
|Ron Harper||G-F||32||Steve Nash||PG||38|
|Luc Longley||C||27||Dwight Howard||C||26|
|Toni Kukoc||F||27||Antawn Jamison||F||36|
|Steve Kerr||PG||30||Steve Blake||PG||32|
|Randy Brown||G||27||Jodie Meeks||G||25|
|Jud Buechler||F-G||27||Devin Ebanks||SF||22|
|James Edwards||C-F||40||Jordan Hill||C||25|
|Jack Haley||C-F||32||Andrew Goudelock||G||23|
|John Salley||F-C||31||Chris Duhon||PG||29|
|Dickey Simpkins||F||23||Earl Clark||F||24|
*The Lakers' roster does not include 2012 NBA draft picks
The ’95-96 Bulls team isn’t the most talented unit ever constructed, but behind an MVP season from Jordan and undeniable on-the-court chemistry, they dominated a league that included two other 60-plus-win teams.
With the exception of Rodman, much of the Bulls core had played together before their legendary season. While the Lakers have a whole new slew of rotation players coming their way, they’re too talented to not make a serious run at the regular-season record sometime in the next few years.
The new-look Lakers are going to be one of the most talented teams in the league, and while they might struggle with chemistry early, they're going to be dangerous once they reach their full potential.
Can They Make History?
If you think this record is going to be an easy one to break, you don’t understand just how significant of an accomplishment it truly is. However, if you think that Lakers simply don’t stand a chance, you’re tremendously undervaluing the pieces on this roster.
According to ESPN’s Arash Markazi, Howard could miss the beginning of the season, which puts an obvious halt on record-breaking potential.
That being said, even if the Lakers can’t put it together next year, they’re going to challenge the record at some point, and they’re going to be one of the best teams in the league as long as the Core Four remains together.
If you ask every player on this roster about the possibility of a historical achievement, you’re likely to hear retorts about NBA championships, not NBA records.
The goal is clear in Los Angeles—win an NBA title.
Expectations are high, however, and if this team can stay healthy and play together, there’s no reason to believe they won’t push the envelope when it comes to the regular-season landmark.
Howard and Nash have taken their talents to Los Angeles, and alongside Bryant and Gasol, the Lakers are in position to make history before it’s all said and done.