Coming off one of the worst seasons ever
After all teams play 82 games over a 6 month duration, 16 teams out of 30 make it to the Playoffs while the rest 14 have no option but to sit on the sidelines and watch the post-season. Last season was the first time in NBA’s history that the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers were among the 14 that didn’t qualify for the Playoffs.
These three teams are the league’s most famous and illustrious teams. The Celtics had officially announced their rebuilding plans around Rajon Rondo by trading away veterans Kevin Garnet and Paul Pierce. On the other hand for the other two teams not making it to the Playoffs is a shame to the franchise especially for the Lakers given their rich history in terms of championships.
The Lakers registered a 27-55 record last season, second worst in the Western Conference and fifth worst overall among all 30 teams. The win loss record of last season was worst ever since the franchise moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis.
With the return of key veterans Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash and addition of good key bench players in the off-season, the hope of a better season in a build up to a championship are high in the city of Los Angeles.
Prediction for their standings at the end of the season: 8th/9th seed in the best case scenario
Projected starting line-up for the season:
Point Guard- Steve Nash
Shooting Guard- Kobe Bryant
Small Forward-Wesley Johnson
Power Forward- Carlos Boozer
The Lakers are a team who will be under constant scrutiny whether they are championship contender, defending champions or a rebuilding team simply because of the city they play in. Playing in front of Hollywood can have its merits and demerits. Here are three components which hold the key to the Lakers having a the best season possible:
Health and Leadership of Bryant and Nash
The rotation of players which played majority of the minutes last season were an extremely young bunch showing good signs of chemistry. The team had been among the top 5 in 3-point shooting and were 11th overall on offense, not bad for a team which recorded only 27 wins. So clearly the problem was on the defensive end of the court.
Here is where the leadership and experience of their future Hall of Famer back court duo Bryant and Nash will come handy. Bryant is never been known to be the easiest to play with but part of that is because he demands a lot from his teammates which inevitably makes them better. He and Nash will be the on-court coaching staff for the team, always keeping the players informed of key adjustments that need to be made which the coaching staff on the bench might not be able to communicate.
With Nash much fitter he will be the floor general, excusing Bryant from playing point thus it would be safe to assume additional dependable offense from the 36 year old 2 times NBA Finals MVP. The duo might be on the wrong side of 35 nevertheless their presence on the floor bring much needed stability to the team.
New Head Coach Byron Scott
There were two main problems the team was facing when Mike D’Antoni was running the show as the head coach.
- His offensive system did not match the roster and its average age.
- He and face of the franchise Bryant had different ideas about winning.
Not only did his offensive style not match the roster at his avail but his coaching techniques seemed to have a lack of emphasis on defense. Meanwhile Byron Scott on the other hand is a coach who doesn’t favor one particular side of the court-offense or defense. Across all the teams he has coached so far, his system seem to always be in sync with his roster and their talents.
Coaching the New Orleans Hornets and the Cleveland Cavaliers sans LeBron James just before applying for the job, there are obviously no positive results to show on his resume other than his three Conference Championships with the New Jersey Nets in the early 2000’s. To add on, his relationship with Bryant and his association with the franchise as a player did make him the most favored candidate for the new head coaching job for the Lakers.
Scott was a three time champion is his playing days with the Lakers. During the end of his career he played for the team again for a single season after shifting between numerous other franchises. That season also happened to be Bryant’s rookie season and ever since the two have shared a relationship that still keeps them in contact and on good terms.
With the best player, coach and management on the same terms, the team should be set for a stable season with no constant question marks on the Head Coach, his style or his relations with the management.
Can this bench repeat last season’s incredible showing?
Last season’s Lakers bench was so talented that at least half of the 27 wins they registered could be credited to them alone. There were numerous instances last year that the second unit outscored the starting five by an unsailable margin.
Although multiple members of that reserve unit in Jodi Meeks, Chris Kaman, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar have signed with other teams, the core of that bench in Young and Xavier Henry are still with the team. All three players bring different things to the table for the team.
Young brings consistent offense with his efficient range shooting from the field, something Head Coach Scott could use when Bryant rests. Henry can shoot the three, drive to the basket, make tough layups, plays good strong defense and is also a capable ball handler.
Also key fits to this unit are big names in point guard Jeremy Lin and Forward Ed Davis, both were off-season pickups for the franchise. With a more formidable starting line-up this time around, we will have to wait and see if the bench can still be as effective as they were in lesser playing time.