They rolled in. At a pace that mortals should not be able...
Signs of Things to Come for the Purple and Gold? Owen’s Lakers Preview
The only way the Lakers preseason could have been worse is if one of their stars had sustained a long-term injury. Aside from that, here are the ways in which the Lakers’ preseason was just about the worst thing for them and their fans.I didn’t see the games.
Thousands, perhaps millions of Lakers fans hoping to get pumped about the upcoming season were left out in the cold when the new Time Warner SportsNet was not available to lots of Lakers fans during the preseason. This meant that, for all the work the Lakers had done to enhance their star-power and keep themselves relevant, their fans could do little to get excited. I have yet to see Steve Nash or Dwight Howard play in a Lakers uniform and the season starts Tuesday. For anticipation’s sake, this is not a good thing.
The purple and gold didn’t win a single preseason game.
You’ll hear a lot about how the Lakers’ 0-8 record in the preseason was meaningless. Stephen A. Smith and Chis Broussard will tell you that nobody on the Lakers really cares about that and that Kobe’s team will be fine. But you would think that a team ready to make a championship run would win at least one game. One would posit that a team with championship depth would have some of their substitutes able to will them to at least a single victory. An 0-8 preseason is not a good thing and it does matter, despite what people say.
The Lakers are old — and brittle.
In his 17th season, Kobe Bryant has racked up 1,161 regular season games and 220 playoff games, not to mention any Olympic teams he has been on. He seems to have a nagging injury during every recent year and this year doesn’t promise to be any different. That being said, he may be the most dependable of the Lakers’ “Big-4″ when it comes to health. He wills himself through his nagging injuries better than any player ever has. He has lost a step and, while he’ll probably miss 5-10 games this season due to injury, Kobe will be there when it counts, doing what he does.
Let’s look at the other three guys for a moment. Pau Gasol is not getting any younger, or more physical. Losing Phil Jackson as a mentor really hurt Pau last year, when he never quite figured out his role. While that may get a little better this season with Nash at his side, he still isn’t a great fit in Mike Brown’s system. He will play a lot of games, but he’s not nearly as effective as he was 3 years ago.
Dwight Howard is exciting, but his back has not been right for over a year. A player who relies on his athleticism needs to have a strong back. Lakers fans are hoping Howard will play over 75 games this year, but I would put the over/under at about 50.
Steve Nash is amazing. He is 4 years older than Kobe Bryant and has been playing in the league just as long. Nash does not have the tenacity of playing through injuries as Kobe does, but he takes care of his body very well. Lakers fans should expect Nash to play 70 or so games and to have limited minutes in games. His time on the floor will be effective, but fans have to wonder whether Steve Blake can give good point-guard minutes off the bench and hold down the fort until Nash returns.
So, if we add that up, that is quite a few games that I’m expecting those players to miss. People say that all you have to do is get in the playoffs, but without a full team for much of the year, I expect the Lakers to be trying to find themselves all season, which will cause them to be found wanting once the playoffs come around. For a “championship or bust” team, it could be a very loud bust.
Who did the Lakers pick up to come off the bench? Well, you can find guys like Antawn Jamison — who can still score a little but plays no defense. Jodie Meeks can also provide some offense. If the reserves were going to be a solid group though, it seems like the team would have won a game in the preseason.
Ghosts of 2003-04
In 2003-04, the Lakers still had the nucleus of their three-peat championship roster intact. In a move that preceded the Celtics “Big 3″ coming together, Mitch Kupchak added Hall-of-Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Living in Florida at the time, it was the only year I’ve ever invested in NBA League Pass. The Lakers were compelling and should have won the title that year but injuries to Shaq and Malone, combined with poor chemistry, foiled the “Big 4′s” title hopes.
This year, the Lakers added Nash and Howard and I’m reminded of 2003-04. This team is compelling, intriguing, and makes me want to watch. If I had cable or satellite, I would probably think about getting League Pass again this year.
Oh, and the preseason record of that 2003-04 team that went to the finals: (6-2).
Health will be the story for the Lakers. The odds of their key players staying healthy all year and the team gelling to win a title in their first year together are long. The Lakers will end up competitive and compelling, but probably won’t be championship material. Unless they stay healthy and end up winning the championship, which is possible. After all, I am a Lakers fan.