Last off season the Lakers were victim of what many fans felt was a conflict of interest at the hands of NBA Commissioner, and controlling party of the New Orleans Hornets, David Stern. Stern used his power over the league controlled Hornets to void the deal sending point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers, largely due to pressure put on him by small-market owners. The Lakers fell victim to being a dominant team in a league seeking parity, and finished the season with a lopsided second round exit to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers again made the biggest off season splash this year, and this time the league could do nothing but sit back in awe. In July the Lakers finally got their coveted point guard, dealing a package of draft picks to the Phoenix Suns for future Hall of Famer Steve Nash. Joining Nash would be arguably the best center in the game Dwight Howard, finally ending a trade saga dating back to last season. In addition the Lakers also filled out a depleted bench with several role players, all in hopes of getting back to the elite level of the NBA in 2012.
This off season was perhaps the Lakers biggest since 1996 when the other “Superman” arrived in town. The similarities between new big man Dwight Howard and former center Shaquille O’Neal are seemingly endless. Both arrive courtesy of the Orlando Magic, and both use a dominant on court game, paired with a gregarious off court personality to become widely popular among fans. Those fans hope the similarities will continue in the victory column, but not in the rocky relationship with team leader Kobe Bryant. Bryant has proved to be a fierce competitor, with a bristly personality that at times can get under the skin of teammates.
Howard’s name was bantered around in trade talks for a year, with a probable deal to the Brooklyn Nets being fumbled several times opening the door for the Lakers. Howard finally accepted a deal to the purple and gold in a four team deal that saw the Lakers part ways with center Andrew Bynum. Bynum showed flashes of brilliance in his Lakers career, but at times it was over shadowed by health and maturity issues. Bynum was a malcontent, performing best when he felt slighted by teammates or the front office. Bynum also seemed to grow tired of playing second banana to Bryant, and will now get a chance to lead a team after being jettisoned to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Howard will be joined in the front court by the returning Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace. Gasol has played under the microscope of trade talks since a poor performance in the 2010-11 playoffs, including being dealt in the nixed Chris Paul deal. Gasol shouldn’t have to look over his shoulder anymore, the Lakers have the big man they sought and Kobe Bryant has given several votes of confidence to the embattled power forward. During the 2012 Summer Olympics Gasol showed how dominat he still is, leading Spain to a Silver medal. Gasol benefited in the Olympics from the strong point guard play of Jose Calderon, and should have similar success with the addition of Nash. Metta World Peace was rumored to possibly be victim of the NBA amnesty clause this off season, but instead he retains his starting small forward role. World Peace has obvious offensive short comings, but on a team loaded with offensive weapons that shouldn’t be an issue. World Peace is still a physical presence, and a shut-down defender, a crucial asset to a team with championship aspirations.
The Lakers formed one of the more dynamite back courts in NBA history with the addition of Steve Nash. The age of both Nash and Kobe Bryant may prevent them from being the best back court of all time, but they could be the purist – a true passer and a true shooter. The two have battled several times through the years, garnering a competitive hate, but mutual respect for one another. As Nash noted in June, “For me, it would be hard to put on a Lakers jersey. That’s just the way it is”, but indeed on July 4th he would do just that. In the end, the move made too much sense for both sides to pass on. The Lakers got the table-setting point guard they have lacked in recent years, and Nash can strive for his illusive NBA championship.
Kobe Bryant should benefit immensely from the arrival of Nash, allowing him to return to a true shooting guard position. The knock on Bryant has always been that he tries to do too much, or is “selfish”. This is a bit of a misconception, as Bryant has often had no choice but to direct the offense and take an abundant amount of shots. Bryant has an intensity, and passion for winning perhaps never rivaled in the NBA, and he has never been shy about taking over a game if it gives his team a shot at victory. With Nash now the floor general of the Lakers, Bryant will be able to wait for more open looks, and be more selective in shot selection. Bryant summed it up this preseason, “He likes to pass, and I like to shoot. I think it will work out just fine.”
Aside from point guard the Lakers most glaring weakness in 2011 was their bench play. At times the Lakers second squad struggled to keep games competitive, which is why the team focused a great deal of attention on it this summer. Jordan Hill, acquired in a 2011 deadline deal from Houston will be back to spell Dwight Howard at center. The reserve front court also saw the addition of Antawn Jamison who brings a career 19.5 points, and 7.9 rebounds per game. Jamison likely could have had starting roles elsewhere, but took a reserve role at the veteran’s league minimum to sign with the Lakers. Upgrades were also seen in the backcourt, three-point specialist Jodie Meeks was signed from Philadelphia, and point guard Chris Duhon was added from Orlando in the Dwight Howard deal. Duhon will team with incumbent reserve Steve Blake to play a likely 15 to 20 minutes in place of Nash. The remaining bench spots will be decided between several candidates including, Devin Ebanks, Andrew Goudelock, Darius Odom, Earl Clark, and former UCLA bad boy Reeves Nelson.
How many people will get to watch the newly reloaded Lakers is still up in the air. Gone are the days of KCAL and Fox sports, after Time Warner signed a 20-year, $3 billion television deal with the Lakers. This gives Time Warner exclusive rights to the Lakers games, aside from national broadcasts on ESPN and ABC. Time Warner has been in talks with other cable, satellite and IPtv providers to broadcast the games, but as of now those providers have balked at the $3.95 per household Time Warner is demanding. Public pressure will likely force the hand of providers to add the Lakers games by the beginning of the season, but for now Lakers games remain dark to non-Time Warner homes.
A year after having a potential deal for a franchise point guard undone by the league, the Lakers again became the talk of the NBA this off season. The team has made significant upgrades at almost every position with an eye on competing with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat. How a team loaded with at least three first ballot Hall of Famers meshes remains to be seen, and should take shape this season. Will Nash and Bryant co-exist as smoothly in the back court as they suggest? Will Howard accept that the Lakers are still Bryant’s team, and wait for his time as team leader to emerge? The star-studded roster has a chance at imploding, but if they can remain focused on the ultimate goal, another Championship parade could be coming to Los Angeles in June.
About the Author
Written by Greg Quintero
Greetings all, I am a 28 year old aspiring writer from Southern California. I'm a fan of most sports and diehard Angels, Lakers, and NFL( Please give us a team in L.A., NFL!) supporter. Sports has been a part of me from an early age, and I look forward to sharing team news, and yes, a few opinions with all of you.