I had my doubts. Really, two 7 footers on a D'Antoni team seems like it would be a disaster, but since Pau has come back, it's looked good. The Lakers have now won 5 straight, and while the first 3 were nothing to write home about, they made me cautiously optimistic. I believe that objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and while those first 3 wins in this current winning streak were unimpressive wins, they are the wins that put them in motion, and the return of Nash and Pau built on that momentum.
We were all hoping that Nash would be the answer, and so far he has been. The Lakers offense has looked smooth these past 2 games, they've looked like a team that was at home in D'Antoni's system. He's been the calming force that they've lacked since Phil Jackson left.
I may not be a Kobe fan, but so far this year he's made me look stupid. Nothing could make me happier. The game today was a perfect example of why I think Kobe is putting up such good numbers this year, he got 24 shots. Notice the verb, “got”, I didn't say take. He got those shots in the rhythm of the game, he didn't take the shots and disrupt the offense in the process. He's adjusted his mentality, he's using the system and team to create his shots, instead of just going 1 on 5 like he's done so much throughout his career. If he can continue this, the Lakers are going to be serious title contenders.
Howard will be Howard. Is he Shaq or Olajuwon? No, you can't just throw the ball into the post an expect him to score. He's about defense and rebounding. He's great in the pick and roll and he'll have some great dunks, which is the extent of his offensive ability, but that's okay. He is what he is.
Pau is the key to it all though. Can he fit on this team and in this system? That still remains to be seen. The system can be adjusted to help him ft in, he's not Amare, he doesn't need to score to have a positive impact on the game. The real question for me is whether or not he's willing to be the 4th option, and whether or not the fans will let him be the 4th option. If he's willing to be the 4th option, he would easily be the best 4th best player in the league (if that makes sense). If that's the case, people need to adjust their expectations of him, because he won't put up the numbers that you'd expect of a player of that caliber, because he won't be getting the opportunities that you'd expect a player of that caliber to get. We all have to remember, there's only 1 ball.
Are they a perfect team? No. They're terrible on transition D and defending the pick and roll, and they're still a little rough around the edges on offense (they average over 16 TO's a game). However, they do lead the league in Rebounds PG, are 2nd in rebound differential PG, they're the 5th highest scoring team in the lead, and are tied for 3rd in PPS. So there are more +'s than -'s, and they're only going to get better as the season progresses. Their problems are not unsolvable, especially the TO's which I think was due to Kobe being the primary ball handeler in this system instead of Nash who was injured. The defense also hasn't been as bad as people think, they rank 17th in FG% D and rank 9th in Defensive PPS.
This current 5 game winning streak has gotten them to .500, and these past 2 games have been particularly impressive, but they just now got their head above water. What they do from now until the end of the season is what matters, but they've got me feeling a lot more confident.