Recently there has been a lot of talk from the basketball community about personal impressions and opinions of the Lakers new roster. For example, former Laker greats Robert Horry, James Worthy and Shaquille O’Neal have made some press with their recent comments about the new-look Lakers, in particular with Dwight Howard. It makes sense given that we are only a couple weeks out of pre-season and training camp and headline news is not so easy to stumble upon as it was during the past couple of months.
However, the outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made some comments about the team that Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss put together over this summer that caught my attention the most. If you haven’t seen the full story, here’s a link.
The part that caught my eyes in particular was when he said, “It takes great chemistry. … It takes guys wanting to be there. I don’t know if all their guys want to be there.” Now I don’t always agree with Cuban, but he is right here, in part. If you believe every Laker does not want to be exactly where they are, you’ll lose me in that argument.
I feel like Cuban is covertly talking about Dwight Howard. However, since Howard was signed by Los Angeles, not one word that he has spoken has resembled an attitude that he doesn’t want to wear purple and gold. In fact, Howard has since given subtle hints that he wants to remain a Laker for the rest of his career and build a legacy in L.A.. Furthermore, Steve Nash is hungry for a ring and understands that the Lakers are, not only his best shot at one, but that L.A. is also a place where his skills and abilities are going to be utilized to the fullest.
Also, don’t tell me that Antawn Jamison doesn’t want to be there. He took a dramatic cut in pay just to be a Laker.
Enough of my Mark Cuban rant. Let me get back to the part of his comment that I agree with. Ultimate success at any level does take great chemistry, commitment and mutual accountability in my opinion. Ultimate success in the NBA and for the Lakers means winning the championship. While there is no doubt that the Lakers have the strongest starting five in the league and a much improved bench, things need to click on the court at a consistent rate in order for ultimate success to occur. We all know the most talented team does not always secure an automatic championship. Just ask the 2010-11 Miami Heat. Sorry, I had to put that in there.
I believe I have written this quote before, but it is my favorite sports quote and relates quite nicely to this subject. Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” The Lakers don’t have a goal to win games, but rather to win a title. Winning games is simply part of the plan. As I said, ultimate success for the Lakers means chemistry, commitment and mutual accountability from everyone. The Lakers seemed to be lacking in some of these areas last season by some. Make no mistake, it does take everyone to buy into this effort, not just the starters.
So here comes the good part. I see no reason or obstacle preventing the Lakers from achieving this. Yes, it will take some time to get all cylinders working in unison, especially if Dwight Howard is sidelined for the start of the season. It will also take some time considering the fact that the the lineup is very different this year. Yes, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace are still in the starting rotation, but their roles are going to be different this upcoming season with the additions of Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and the Princeton Offense. Training camp and pre-season will be a major step in building chemistry and fluidity, but kinks always pop up and it will take some time to iron them out.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they will struggle during the start of the season. Just as Jordan said, “talent wins games.” In my opinion, I believe the Lakers will begin to create and play with great chemistry, teamwork and with a strong vision of each other around the All-Star break. I see this happening with or without any possible absence by Dwight Howard at the beginning of the season.
It is mostly agreed that the Oklahoma City Thunder are the biggest competition in the West. One of the biggest strengths of the current Thunder squad is the level of chemistry that the players have with each other and the way they play off of one other. Therefore, chemistry might be the intangible that allows the Lakers to hurdle past the Thunder in the post-season.
There is an underlying reason why I previously brought up the 2010-11 Miami Heat. When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces in Miami, they immediately became the favorites and were expected to easily win it all. Well, if that was the case there would be no reason to actually play a season and a post-season. During the 2011 Finals, the Mavericks were exuding team chemistry and played as one, while the Heat reverted to playing individual ball. We all know the result, which is why the Lakers must use this and the 2004 Lakers that Cuban pointed out as examples.
As I said before, I see no reason or obstacle preventing this from naturally occurring. The current Lakers are different from those 2011 Heat and 2004 Laker squads. And, despite what Cuban may say, they do all want to be wearing purple and gold. From everything I have heard, the commitment is apparent and shared. Mutual accountability will come as the season progresses.
Chemistry must be created by all and should grow with each game they play, and this is how the Lakers will achieve ultimate success in the 2012-13 season.
This week’s edition of Locker Room Talk discusses who defenses will double-team this season.