The Lakers Big Gamble Isn’t Paying Off
The Lakers were pissed off at the end of last season. Why? Really, I’m not quite sure. I understand that there are always lofty expectations concerning the biggest ticket in LA but consider what they were working with last year. The roster consisted of three All-Stars, just as the Heat, Celtics, Spurs and Pistons had in the past (all of which eventually won titles), and it was a combination of talent that had won in the past.
It seemed the only issue this team had going into the offseason was to shore up its bench and they would be ready for another deep run. The fact that the team they had last year were able to take a game from the Thunder should have been a sign of optimism rather than cause for uproar.
However, the Lakers went for the big score as they so often do and landed a very much maligned Dwight Howard who was desperate to end his tenure in Orlando, so desperate he accepted a trade to a team he did not want to play for. And it may turn out that this trade may all but doom the immediate future of the organization.
The trade, in itself, was fine. Howard for Andrew Bynum is an upgrade is some areas and not so much in others, but Howawrd is more reliable on a night-by-night basis. Both were in contract years and it was clear Bynum wanted to test the market. However, Howard did not want to be a Laker and he may still not want to be a Laker.
The Nash move puzzled me. It’s not that he’s a bad fit, but they gave him $27 million over three years. That’s far too risky for a guy with enough nagging injuries to have a syndrome named after him. Case and point: Nash has a broken bone in his foot and will miss the next few weeks.
Kobe Bryant is about Moses’ age in NBA years and has made it very clear he’s not going to stick around and average 20 points per game. As Kobe has said in the past “I’m not that guy.”
So your aging superstar has made it clear that once his greatness has run out, he’s getting out of dodge. Adding Nash should have brought stability and consistency to an offense that has been “get the ball to Kobe” for too long. He would add stability if he were free to be Steve Nash, but for some reason the coach who has built his rhetoric upon defensive intensity suddenly thought he was the smartest guy in the room.
Mike Brown introduced the “Princeton Offense” to the Lakers, and then Rome fell before it even could crown itself an empire. In my approximately 17 years of playing, watching, reading about and talking about basketball, I have picked up a thing or two. I may not be an NBA coach, but I know all about the “Princeton Offense”. It’s a set that involved anticipation, ball movement, off-ball screens and great continuity. In short, it typically hides the fact that a team lacks talent.
For the Lakers, it hides the talent that they clearly possess. They have one of the best scorers of all-time, a monstrously athletic big man in Howard and a sweet as sugar distributer in Nash, who turned an aging Shaquille O’Neal into an All-Star in Phoenix. So of these guys, who has been the Lakers key cog in the Princeton Offense? Pau Gasol. If the Lakers expect to go far, Gasol cannot be their best player. A team with Gasol as their best player was the exact situation he escaped from in Memphis.
Once more, this offense will chase Howard right out of Los Angeles. Say they struggle to a 5-seed, is Dwight coming back to that team? No way, he’s running for the border (the state border) and likely signing with a team he wanted to play for in the first place.
Laker fans, I realize it’s only three games and everybody needs to calm down. You can make that claim, but no other team with the talent of the Lakers would ever dream of running this offense. The back-cuts and anticipation passes are regularly mistimed, resulting in turnovers and confusion. When that happens, the ball moves the other way in a hurry and the Lakers don’t have the athleticism to squash a fastbreak. That’s free points for the other team about 20 different times a night.
Yes it’s early, but the sets this team has run on offense show telling signs of stubbornness that will inhibit their ability to grow as a team and come together, which is the only way to win a championship.