The Los Angeles Lakers finally got a win against the Detroit Pistons, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the new-look team started 2012-13 season at 0-3, immediately placing doubt about whether or not Steve Nash and Dwight Howard were capable of bringing the Larry O'Brien Trophy back to Los Angeles.
After the team's loss to the Clippers that pushed them to 0-3, star guard Kobe Bryant spoke to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com and rather than go into freakout mode, instead spoke very patiently.
We're hitting the panic button now," Bryant said in a somewhat obligatory manner after a reporter asked if the team was reaching for an imaginary knob. "That's what we're supposed to do. This is our job. We're not supposed to just kind of coast and just assume things are going to fix themselves. We got to push at it.
It's particularly hard for me because I'm not the most patient individual in the world, but you have to be. You have to be, Bryant said, pointing out that the Chicago Bulls started 0-3 while struggling with the Triangle offense in Phil Jackson's second full season before going on to win the championship in 1990-91. You have to stay persistent and you have to stay committed to what we're doing and just keep on trucking.
However, Zach Harper of CBSSports.com did not share Bryant's opinion and instead suggested that the Lakers had indeed gone into panic mode, due to "poor decision making and poor defense."
While the Lakers did indeed lose three consecutive games to start the season and that is certainly odd given how busy an offseason GM Mitch Kupchak had in acquiring both Nash and Howard, Bryant is right in saying that everyone should remain patient. After all, the Lakers underwent significant changes over the summer and the team, as a whole, is totally different than it has been in recent years.
Keep in mind, for the past few years, the Lakers' offense was essentially the Kobe Bryant Show with some occasional big games from Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Derek Fisher was the team's point guard for years and did little to create plays, preferring to get the ball to Bryant possession after possession and little else.
In Nash, Los Angeles has its first true point guard since Nick Van Exel, who last played for the team in 1998. He may have struggled thus far in coach Mike Brown's Princeton offense, but once he adjusts to it and learns more about it as he recovers from his broken leg, he'll return to his playmaking and hot shooting form for sure.
More importantly, Howard comes in as a center who plays hard night after night and isn't a head case like the oft-injured Bynum was. He has been named Defensive Player of the Year three times and gives the Lakers their most explosive center since Shaquille O'Neal, except this time there won't be a feud with Bryant (at least not yet).
In fact, under Brown's new offense, Bryant has actually played better. Instead of just taking the shot because nobody else will, the current system has him actually taking open shots as opposed to just throwing them up willy nilly. He is also driving hard to the basket a lot less, thus not sacrificing his body as much.
As a result, the five-time champion is averaging 26.8 points per game while shooting an absolutely astounding 60 percent from the field and 53 percent from three-point land during his team's slow start. Yet, fans still need not worry.
On top of it all, the Lakers aren't the first "superteam" to struggle in its beginnings. Remember the 2010-11 Miami Heat? The Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh started off 9-8 and, naturally, there was concern as to whether or not this trio could play together. They ended up going on a 12-game winning streak and ended up making it to the NBA Finals that very same season and lost to the Dallas Mavericks.
Today, they are the reigning NBA champions.
Think of what the Heat's offense was before 2011 and after their championship season of 2006. Save for a couple of years with an aging Shaquille O'Neal, it was basically all about Wade. Just how the Heat adjusted to Wade's new teammates, so will the Lakers with Bryant's.
While the Lakers' 1-3 start may not be ideal, it's still way too early for the "panic button" to be pushed. The NBA season is long and Bryant has flourished in his coach's offense thus far, so there is really no reason to believe a major regression will happen once the Lakers get back into the flow of things.
If anything, the team as a whole will look even better once Nash is healthy again and has a better handle on the system, thus making any "chemistry issues" a thing of the past.