What LA Lakers Should Have Learned from Former Superteam Flops

J.M. Poulard@ShyneIVContributor IIMarch 1, 2013

Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant.
Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant.USA TODAY Sports

The 2012-13 NBA regular season has been unkind to the Los Angeles Lakers (29-30 record), but recent history tells us that not all "superteams" have lived up to expectations.

For instance, the Houston Rockets of the late 1990s featured Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley. That trio never sniffed the second round of the playoffs due advanced age and an inability to coexist.

The Lakers’ quartet of stars has struggled due to the same issues, with injuries also playing a key role.

Before going down with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot, Pau Gasol, 32, was relegated to the second unit in an effort to open up the floor for Kobe Bryant, 34, and the starting unit.

Dwight Howard, 27, has been asked to anchor the defense and live off of whatever crumbs Bryant leaves for him. He has battled through back and shoulder issues throughout the season.

Steve Nash, 39, has taken a backseat to the two-time NBA Finals MVP and allowed him to assume most of the ball-handling duties for the Purple and Gold. He has also dealt with his own injuries, missing 24 games early in the season after fracturing his left leg.

Much like the Rockets from the late 1990s, the superstars under Mike D’Antoni this year have sacrificed in some way, shape or form. They haven’t completely embraced their roles, and it’s resulted in some poor basketball and public griping.

With Nash and Gasol being known for excellent passing from their respective positions, it makes the Lakers' chemistry issues that much harder to grasp. 

Superteams are not new for Bryant.

The 2003-04 Lakers featured Gary Payton, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal, all of whom played alongside Kobe. That squad failed to win the championship, losing to the Pistons in five games, though it’s worth noting that Malone was injured during the NBA Finals.

One recent unit that laid the blueprint for all superteams to follow was the 2010-11 Miami Heat. The Boston Celtics, with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and a young Rajon Rondo, would be another.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh faltered in the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks and were consequently seen as busts given the expectations and talent on board.

That Heat looked awkward at times, with James and Wade taking turns leading the offense. The twosome relied on their sheer talent as opposed to blending it within their offensive scheme, and it cost them.

James and Wade had some disagreements early, and there were instances in which they fought for control of the offense, but they eventually figured it out, ultimately winning it all in 2011-12.

One area where Miami excelled from the start was defensively. The Heat always had a chance to win games late.

Their defense carried them through tough stretches and allowed them to breeze through the playoffs on their way to the NBA Finals in the 2010-11 season. No series went beyond five games up until the finals.

D'Antoni's club, however, does not play defense. This version of the Lakers gives up 101.1 points per game, tied for the 23rd-worst mark in the league.

For superteams to succeed, injuries need to be avoided, egos need to take a backseat, top-level defense needs to be played and older players need to find the fountain of youth.

This Lakers team failed on every level.

J.M. Poulard is a featured columnist and can be found on Twitter under the handle name @ShyneIV.


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