Can aging Lakers actually overachieve?
by David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — A lot of observers look at the Los Angeles Lakers and see a roster that’s not championship-caliber and an economic future that includes tons of salary-cap space next summer and figure they are uncharacteristically writing off the season to get in position to bid on free agents-to-be LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
But Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni and his best players — Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash — are not on board with that.
They’re saying to ignore what you’ve heard, they are not tanking.
“The expectations are down, and obviously we have some question marks,” D’Antoni says. “People have put us down to finish 12th or whatever, but that doesn’t affect what we do or what our mind-set is.
“Our mind-set is to overachieve and build this team as strong as it can be. Hopefully we’ll have a little chip on our shoulders.”
D’Antoni replaced Mike Brown early last season and piloted a sinking ship — a seemingly dysfunctional collection of star talent that ultimately collapsed because of Bryant’s late-season torn Achilles tendon and the fact that the rest of the Lakers weren’t nearly as good as their first-round playoff opponent, the San Antonio Spurs.
The Lakers and their fans hope they have Bryant in the lineup soon, but there is no timetable for his return. He is coming off one of his best seasons, but he is 35 and there is no certainty that once he gets back on the court he will be anywhere near his old showstopping self after such a serious injury.
But it is clear that Bryant and his two aging co-stars, 39-year-old Nash and 33-year-old Gasol, are not just waiting around to see who the Lakers sign next year.
Bryant and Gasol are in their final years of their contracts. Their idea is to make the most they can out of a roster that might be short a piece or two but got younger and more athletic this offseason.
“My goal is the same as it’s always been: win a championship,” Bryant says. “Every team is looking for something to use as motivation, like a chip … [For more on Can aging Los Angeles Lakers actually overachieve?, click here.]