NBA AM: Can The Lakers Flip The Switch?
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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The Los Angeles Lakers improved more than any other team in the league this offseason, or so we thought. After an active summer in which they added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash most notably along with some upgrades to their bench like Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison, many labeled the Lakers the favorites not just in the West but overall.
Yet, the Lakers did not manage to win a game during the preseason. A 94-82 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night put them at 0-8 in exhibition contests.
It’s important not to overblow their struggles because it is just preseason. Kobe Bryant and Howard, their top two players, only played together once and Howard played just two games total. However, it showed that everything is not just going to fall into place for them immediately. Year in and year out we see how important team chemistry is and despite their immense amount of talent, the Lakers clearly have a long way to go when it comes to knowing how to play off of each other and being most effective in their new system.
“Once we get it and everybody understands and trusts it, we’ll be fine,” Howard said to ESPN Los Angeles. “I keep telling the guys, ‘This is a process. We’re not going to get this overnight. We’re playing for June. We have to remember that.’”
“I would have loved to get one, at least one, but there’s nothing we can do now,” Lakers head coach Mike Brown added. “The worst thing about it, honestly, is that my preseason record with the Lakers is 0-10. Hopefully, next year I’ll get a win.”
Brown isn’t the only Lakers coach to struggle to win games in the preseason. Hall of Famer Phil Jackson, who he replaced, was notorious for his lack of concern over wins and losses in the preseason. His assistant coaches used to tease him that he had the worst preseason record of any coach, but he also had more championships than any coach and that is truly what matters.
Surprisingly, offense has been one of the biggest areas of concerns for Brown’s Lakers this preseason. The team is experiencing some growing pains as they try to run more of the Princeton offense. Even the presence of heralded point guard Steve Nash and assistant coach Eddie Jordan, a specialist with the Princeton offense, hasn’t helped speed up the acclimation process.
“I think we’re going to improve in the offense the entire season,” Nash said. “But, hopefully there will be a time in the next month where we can get to a comfortable state and exploit the offense and do a lot of good things out of it.
“We covered a lot of ground, although it didn’t show on the scoresheets. We learned a lot, we’ve come together. We’ve put in a tremendous amount
“You look at some of the other teams that have the same players and run the same stuff. For them, they’re miles ahead of us at this stage. But, we’ve got to think big picture and long term. Hopefully this will allow us to be really good down the line, even though we’re struggling now.”
The Lakers will have the luxury of playing nine of their first 11 games at the Staples Center to start the season, beginning with the Mavericks on opening night on Tuesday. Now that the game counts, Coach Brown will use a rotation that is in serious contrast to the one he used during the preseason. We’ll be seeing a lot more of the starting five out on the court together, as long as they are healthy (Kobe’s status for the opener is currently up in the air due to a foot injury), and the reserves will be plugged in as Brown sees fit.
The potential remains great for the Lakers, but they have a long way to go and a lot of developing to do if they are going to be able to compete with and beat the best teams in the league.
Howard Stands Up For Centers: Count Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard amongst those who are opposed to the league’s changes to the way All-Star teams are put together. The league changed the format to include three frontcourt players rather than two forwards and a center as they have historically. He took to Stephen A. Smith’s radio show to voice his displeasure.
“I don’t think it’s right,” Howard said. “I don’t think it’s fair. They can say there’s not a lot of centers in the NBA, but the truth of the matter is, it’s gonna come back around.
“You can’t just take it away because that’s still a very important position. Everything starts with the center. It might not be the flashiest person on the court. It might not be the person that gets the most points, but that’s the person that controls the paint on both ends.”
Howard shouldn’t be affected by this rule since he is a true All-Star who will play his way onto the team regardless of the changes. It’s geared more towards centers who were making the team more because of a lack of depth than being truly deserving, which definitely could not be said about Howard.
Stern’s Final Goal To Return To Seattle: NBA commissioner David Stern announced Thursday that he will be calling it a career in 15 months as he’s set to retire on Feb. 1, 2014. Adam Silver, his deputy commissioner, has been unanimously approved as his eventual replacement. However, before Stern walks away from his position of power for good he has one major goal on his agenda according to Adrian Wojnaworski of Yahoo! Sports: returning to Seattle.
The Seattle Supersonics relocated to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder in 2008. As great as the move has been for the franchise, the league has consistently maintained since then that the city of Seattle deserves a NBA team. Wojnarowski reports that they could be getting the Sacramento Kings. He writes that pressure is being put on the Maloofs, who own the majority share of the Kings, to move to Seattle as they recently put together a plan for an arena that can serve as a home to a professional sports team.
“Stern has enough time to get a team back to Seattle, but he’ll let Silver deal with the crowd [booing] on opening night,” a source said to Wojnarowski.
Mavs Sign Curry, Two Others: After suspending guard Delonte West twice in a two-week span, the Mavericks look like they are going to replace him with size. They claimed center Eddy Curry, who spent most of training camp with the San Antonio Spurs, off of waivers late Thursday evening.
“We are excited to bring Eddy Curry to Dallas,” Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said in a release. “He has worked extremely hard this offseason and can provide our frontline with much needed depth.”
Curry was signed along with forward Chris Douglas-Roberts and fellow big man Melvin Ely. The three of them will battle it out for the final spot on the Mavericks’ roster, assuming they officially part ways with the suspended West as reported and decide to carry the maximum 15 players allowed. The Mavericks are currently thin upfront with Dirk Nowitzki out for at least three weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and starting center Chris Kaman ailing from a strained right calf that has him in question for the regular season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats on tap today, starting with mine at 11 am est. Salary cap and Collective Bargaining Agreement expert Larry Coon will follow me up at 3 pm est, taking all your questions on the NBA at large and the CBA.