Is it time to panic? No wins, six losses, even with Dwight playing 33 minutes?!
No, so go ahead and keep your Lakers flags flying on your cars (nothing wrong with some preseason window flags, I have four in each). This is preseason, and the beginning of a very long journey for both the Lakers roster and the coaching staff. Through the first half of preseason Mike Brown was steadily playing lineups where Ronnie Aguilar and Reeves Nelson were featured players, so yes, there were many losses to be had. Quite frankly, the preseason is for the coaches and players to rediscover their identities, and this is a team that has plenty of searching to do with Steve Nash taking over as floor general, a widely new bench, and Dwight Howard having played only one game. Is it discouraging to not have a W in the left column yet? Yeah, sure. But there is good to be found in the Lakers preseason, and growth as a team is far more important than wins that mean nothing.
This bench is atrocious! Doomed, I tell you!
Yes, the bench has been absolutely atrocious as a unit. Compounding the problem, Robert Sacre is playing significant minutes, and while he has earned his way into the 14th spot on the roster, that doesn't make him NBA ready by any stretch of our purple and gold imagination. For the 60th pick in the draft, Sacre is above any expectation that was there for him, but this is still a very raw player. The fact remains that a unit consisting of Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Devin Ebanks, Antawn Jamison, and Robert Sacre shouldn't exactly be considered world beaters. This is the cost of having so much talent at the top of the totem pole. This bench will serve as complementary role players to the starters, not as a group of five basketball players equipped to lead the Lakers to glory. Once the starters and bench begins playing together, the bench players' individual talents will shine. The Lakers are a transitioning team in both personnel and schematics, and they are going to experience many growing pains, so just hang tight. The one definitive takeaway from this group of reserves is that 2-3 starters for the Lakers will need to be handcuffed at all times when the bench is on the floor. There will need to be players to maintain order on both ends of the floor, and the bench isn't quite ready to take that step. Once things settle down and the screws are tightened on rotations, the bench will benefit, especially once Jordan Hill is back on the court.
Ok, but, what if the Lakers win ZERO games in the preseason? That's cause for concern right? We're talking about a BAGEL in the dubya column now over 8 games.
Please refer to question one. It's the preseason, the games that matter start October 30th against the Dallas Mavericks. Don't be surprised if there isn't great fluidity right out of the gates, the Lakers have a great deal of change to juggle, and it will likely take at least two months before the offense really starts taking on the juggernaut persona many are waiting for. The ingredients are there to make it, now it's just a matter of mastering the recipe. The good news is the Lakers have shown many trends that are necessary to make this a delicious plate of food to be served.
And what are those traits? What are these positives you speak of?
For one, Kobe Bryant's shooting efficiency is though the roof. Why? Because the man is living at the line. Fewer field goal attempts along with higher free throw rates, and Kobe will easily put a poor season behind him with general ease (as I detailed here a few months back). Dwight Howard is going to put teams in the penalty, and while his free throw shooting is suspect to say the least, it will be the rest of the team's job to reap the benefits. Second, Steve Nash has taken to the role of offensive leader quite well. He is openly directing players, both on and off ball. An example of this came last night against the Kings, wherein Nash had the ball at the arc, called for Dwight to set a screen, then proceeded to pass the ball to Kobe. This wasn't a screen for Nash to work off of, he wanted his two superstar teammates to make use of it. And it worked. Third, Pau Gasol working as a facilitator is going to be a thing of beauty. In his first night of working with his new frontcourt partner, Gasol notched five assists in the first half alone. And then there's Metta World Peace, blowing preseason kisses, and dropping smooches on the hands of unsuspecting females. The fact that he's in great shape has paid off. It's not just that he's incredibly active now, it's that he simply never looks lethargic as he has in the past. He's all over the court, and perhaps for the first time looks comfortable as a Laker. Now if only he would stop those silly fast-breaks he loves leading.
Okay, so what you're saying is: this will all pass and I'll be able to enjoy championship victory nachos in June!
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. There's a TON of basketball to be played, and we still ultimately have no idea what the Lakers are going to look like in their next game, next month, or come playoff time. The early signs are promising, but it remains to be seen if Mike Brown and Eddie Jordan's Princeton offense will be fully actualized with this group of players (and if it will even work). Even if the Lakers are playing at maximum capacity, the talent in the league has only gotten stronger over the last three or four years, and there is no easy path to an NBA championship. For now, with 6 of the 8 preseason games in the dust, what matters most is this: Dwight Howard is playing basketball again, right on target for his injury recovery, and the Lakers' starting five can finally play ball together. I just wonder if the chills will ever stop while watching the starting lineup announcements.
Are you panicking?
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