You may have noticed that the Lakers had a pretty decent offseason. The changes, as you might expect, have Laker fans a bit giddy.
Close your eyes for a moment and come with me on a visualization experience. Start with one of the game's best offensive point guards, and the league's professor of the pick and roll. Now give him two options for a partner in his two man dance. On one side is the most athletic big man in the game, a man who can either steamroll through and/or speed around every single player in the league. On the other side is the most skilled big man in the league, a 7 footer who passes almost as well as the professor himself. Who's that man in the corner? The one just waiting for his defender to show the slightest interest in assisting his teammates with one of the aforementioned unstoppable combinations so that he can crash to the basket on a back cut? Oh, that's just 14 time All-Star living legend Kobe Bryant. No big deal.
Of course, there's always some good old fashioned cold water to be splashed around.
... yeah, the bench is a huge problem. No worries, though. It's not like the point guard is 38 years old, the top scorer has 50,000 NBA minutes under his belt and the center is coming off back surgery. Oh wait, it's exactly like that. One injury to Nash, Kobe or Howard won't exactly spell doom for the Lakers, but it'll hurt those ridiculously lofty predictions everyone is making about them. This 73-9 nonsense? It's not going to happen. It's really not going to happen if Steve Blake or Chris Duhon start more than one game this season. Heck, even a short injury could cost the Lakers the No. 1 seed to the Thunder, who will (in my estimation) be playing with remarkable urgency.
And even if everyone's healthy, there's things to be worked out.
And there will need to be adjustments, especially offensively. For the first time in his career, Howard will have to play with other top scorers. As much as Kobe Bryant wants to say otherwise, he will want to get his touches on the block. Steve Nash is unselfish and willing to help his team win, but he also is used to handling the ball on 90 percent of his team's possessions. Pau Gasol's game fell off last year when he was paired with another post-up big man in Andrew Bynum, so he needs to be rehabilitated in some capacity as well. With all that in mind, Howard will probably need to spend far more possessions as a decoy, screener or even just as a floor-spacer. That's going to be a tricky change for Howard, considering the Magic ran their offense entirely through him in the post.
So don't crown them NBA Champs just yet. There's still some work to be done and some other teams that might have a thing or two to say about who is left standing in the end.
Can Kobe subjugate his rock-monopolizing tendencies to accommodate an unimpeachable point guard whose lifeblood is a live dribble? How will Kobe react to once again teaming up – this time as a veteran of nearly two decades – with the league’s best big man, who happens to be firmly ensconced in the prime of his career? After years of vacillation between grudging half-reliance on and blatant distrust of teammates whose ability and desire chronically fell short of his lofty expectations, can Kobe find the capacity to genuinely trust not one, but two new superstar teammates whose respective bodies of work warrant nothing less? In short… does Kobe want to win on terms that are not his own?