We have hit the one-quarter mark of this regular season and it has been a roller coaster ride. For every extreme high, there has been an equally disappointing low, and just when we think the Lakers have hit their stride and are poised for a run, an injury, terrible performance, or both pushes the Lakers back again.
This Lakers team is a collection of young, athletic, energetic newcomers, mixed with a group of savvy veterans and they have provided us with some excellent moments so far. For this edition of the Lakers Nation Roundtable, we review the first quarter of the regular season by discussing our best and most disappointing Lakers, along with what we will be looking for in the upcoming quarter of Lakers basketball.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): With the first quarter of the 2013-14 NBA season in the books, a few of the new faces for the Los Angeles Lakers have started to turn some heads. Although no one knew what to expect from the Lakers this season with Kobe Bryant battling back from injury and a lot of questions surrounding this team, the Lakers have faired well with players like Xavier Henry, Nick Young and Wes Johnson leading a young group of players.
Arguably, one the most disappointing players on the team thus far has been Pau Gasol. The two-time NBA champion has shown flashes of his All-Star-caliber form, but has failed to play consistent, good basketball and may be nearing the end of his time in Los Angeles as a result.
Steve Nash has also been extremely disappointing. Nash simply can’t stay healthy and, because of those recurring injuries, may never make it back on the floor for the Lakers — or in the NBA altogether.
As for players to watch moving forward, Bryant has to be at the top of the list. There’s still no telling what kind of player he will be or will be forced to become post-Achilles injury, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the perennial All-Star moving forward.
Young, Johnson, Henry and Jordan Hill will also be players to watch as they may be the future of this team.
Suki Thind (@TheRealSuki): Honestly, no player has really disappointed me so far. I expected Chris Kaman to have an impact and he hasn’t, but I think he played solid basketball when he got on the floor early on, and just hasn’t found a way into this rotation.
Jordan Hill was extremely impressive early on, but has hit a bit of a slump following an ankle injury. I will be monitoring his production throughout the season, but have no doubt that if healthy, he will be a huge part of the Lakers’ success going forward.
Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry have both been up-and-down, but both players play hard every night, and usually when one or both has an off night, others on the team step up. Johnson plays solid defense regardless, and Henry seems to play much better at home than on the road — which is expected of a young role player.
Steve Blake had been extremely impressive, and before his injury, he was the motor for this team. I’ll look to see how he adapts to the offense running more through Kobe Bryant upon his return, but he’s a solid off-ball player with a deadly shot, so he should be fine. Jordan Farmar was playing at a high level before he tore his hamstring. Although the bench does well without him, he’s extremely adept and managing that unit.
Nick Young has been very impressive as well. I always thought of him as being a streaky scorer, but he proved he can be extremely consistent off the bench, and has even displayed some nice defense. I will also be looking to see how he’ll adjust to Kobe Bryant’s return, but if he can somehow maintain the production he’s been providing off the bench, he can certainly still be a candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Jodie Meeks is another player who has impressed mel. His solid shooting and scoring were attributes Mitch Kupchak expected from him last year, but he’s certainly delivering this season and has been a true veteran player for the Lakers. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to his diminished role now that Kobe is back.
Pau Gasol is one player who has been disappointing so far, but hopefully he’ll get healthy and get in condition going forward. Steve Nash is also a huge question mark, and hopefully he can somehow return and sustain some kind of productivity — and eventually retire on his own terms.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): The consistently changing Lakers rotation has allowed numerous Lakers to have great moments at times. Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry have both used their athleticism to make some great highlights on offense and defense, while Nick Young has been a relatively reliable source of offense off the bench.
Both Jordan Farmar and Jordan Hill also enjoyed a great deal of success, but in my opinion, the two most consistent Lakers who have impressed me most this season have been Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks.
Meeks had definitely been the most improved player on the team. An unreliable finisher last year, Meeks has become an excellent slasher and finisher at the rim on both fast breaks and has even flashed a decent floater at times. Blake, meanwhile, has just been a model of consistency, averaging almost eight assists per game, and constantly putting the rest of the Lakers in a position to succeed.
On the other end of the spectrum, Pau Gasol has continued his slide of the last couple of years. He has just looked slow on the court, gets pushed out of position, and has struggled to finish around the rim. I have also been less than impressed with Shawne Williams. He has played a little better lately, but after being heralded as a perfect stretch four for this system, he has shot the ball terribly this season.
Moving forward I will be looking for two things. The first is how Kobe interacts with this group of young players, especially Young, Johnson, and Henry. The wisdom he can impart on these young guys could really make them even better contributors.
I will also be looking forward to seeing Coach D’Antoni settle on a rotation, especially once he gets the majority of his team healthy. The Lakers have a surplus of wings, and at some point, D’Antoni is going to have to decide which one falls out of the rotation.
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