I mentioned cohesion earlier, but perhaps one of the biggest factors influencing that will be the players’ knowledge and acceptance of their respective roles. Pau Gasol, for one, shouldn’t be weary of his role on the court, as he’ll be anchoring the post on offense. He’ll be able to operate in his comfort zone, and allowed to use his superior set of skills in a hopefully high-powered offense that never came to fruition last season.
Steve Nash, if healthy, will be able to freestyle like he did in Phoenix, and Steve Blake will be able to build on the high level of play he displayed towards the end of last season. Jordan Farmar will likely benefit from the system as well.
As far as Kobe Bryant, while he and Dwight Howard couldn’t figure out how to playtogether, Kobe and Nash seemed to really play well together and communicated constantly in an effort to continually improve as a unit. I expect this relationship based on mutual respect to only grow and become the foundation for plenty of highlight worthy plays.
Now, while the Lakers’ defense wasn’t great last season, it likely won’t be any better in the coming season–at least not on paper. While many either wanted Dwight Howard to leave or could care less either way, he was still a defensive presence for the Lakers and at times was their only defense.
Losing that kind of defensive force will certainly create a liability on that end of the floor. However, while none of the new players are necessarily known as exceptional defensive players, the biggest element of defense is will. Will coupled with youth could actually translate into better overall team defense than last season. Simply put, age was a huge factor in the Lakers’ inability to play consistent, solid defense last season, and adding a bit of youth could help.
The toughest part will be instilling in the younger players the hunger to play defense when they’re likely more elated about the fact of having a “green light” on offense, in a sense. Jordan Farmar’s statement of focusing primarily on defense should be a good way to start implementing that mindset.
However, the Lakers are in talks with Kurt Rambis to come on board as an assistant coach, likely to help coordinate the defensive side of the ball. I think that would be an excellent move, as Rambis’ defensive scheming helped the Lakers win a title in 2009. Similarly, because the roster doesn’t exactly scream out “defense!” in terms of the personnel, Rambis is an expert at coming up with zone schemes and has unique philosophies when it comes to stopping the opponent.
He could certainly help compensate for the lack of defensive prowess, in that sense.
All in all, while fans may be disappointed that the Lakers’ expectations aren’t to win a title this season, we should all be encouraged that the team put on the floor next season in a “transitional period” could actually be marginally successful and exciting.
Many are writing the Lakers off as first round exits or as not even making it to the playoffs. I personally think that if healthy, getting solid position in the standings and making it to the second round isn’t entirely out of the question. Not to mention, we as fans have Mitch Kupchak on our side and never know what he has up his sleeve.
Nonetheless, I’m willing to bet the Lakers have a much better season than last year; one filled with excitement, inspired victories, and hope for the future of the franchise.
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