The summer is to most citizens a momentous time to enjoy nature, eat, go to the park, eat, party the night away, eat, take a vacation, eat, and spend time with family. For the basketball fan, however, the time period from the end of June to the beginning of October is bleak, desperate.
For hoops junkies, long hours are spent scrounging YouTube looking at highlight videos, inevitably scouting the top ranked 6th graders. You might even see a Eurobasket game, catching up on the career of that late second rounder your team drafted 5 years ago. You might even watch a WNBA game.
Scratch that, who am I kidding, its never that bad!
The offseason is how you gauge your level of fandom.Did you look up the per 36 minute averages for Xavier Henry the minute he got signed? Yeah you’re psychotic.
Did you still hope the Lakers signed Lamar Odom even after finding about his alleged substance abuse issues? We need a stretch 4 though right? A basketball nut left to the internet with no games to tide them over is a menace to chat rooms everywhere.
Well, the wait is over.
The Lakers head into this season with a mountain of uncertainty tinged with hope. At best this is the last year of post championship downturn, setting the stage for a legendary off-season in 2014 that will bring LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, and maybe a top talent in the draft. At worst, its yet another sinkhole type season for the storied franchise, being woefully mediocre – stuck in the neutral of not being attractive to free agents nor acquiring a next generation star in the lottery.
We’ll find out soon enough which scenario it is.
This season is a fact finding mission for Lakers Nation. Do we have some pieces left that can be apart of another championship run or is it time to say goodbye to the Kobe Bryant era? Kobe will still be here regardless next season but is the era of him being the driving force of a championship caliber franchise in its last year?
Here’s some questions the team needs to answer this season.
1) If Mike D’Antoni is the long term solution as coach, can you win a championship with him?
No coach has gone from being proclaimed a genius to being considered inept faster than D’Antoni. Every team in the league runs some version of his sets and uses some form of his philosophy. That means something. His stubbornness in keeping a short bench and his combativeness in dealing with with the two largest media markets and teams has been his downfall. He doesn’t need to be warm and fuzzy Mike but he needs to have a coherent plan to win and treat the veterans with care. Its a make or break year for him.
2) What kind of Kobe Bryant will we be getting?
Quiet as kept, this a huge year for Kobe. His reign over the Lakers is at its most vulnerable. He’s 35. He’s making a well-deserved 30 million dollars this year, but he will take a significant pay cut next year. He’ll be a free agent after the season and to bring in a megastar, he’ll have to make room for him as a face of the franchise. Then there’s the recovery from the Achilles injury. While there’s no doubt he’ll return as an effective player, it doesn’t matter unless he’s Kobe Bryant again. We expect that from him and will settle for nothing less.
3) Will Pau Gasol return to the elite?
Pau Gasol has been playing out of position for two years now. The NBA of 2010 doesn’t exist any longer. As a power forward Gasol was exploited defensively by quicker athletes. As a center, he should be one the 5 best in the game. His versatility becomes a huge asset at the position. Gasol, while not being a physical player, is a solid rebounder and shot blocker. As a passer he’s the best big in the league. The Lakers would be wise to play through him and a return to All Star status would be probable.
4) What will Wesley Johnson and Nick Young bring?
Nick Young gets buckets. That’s what he does and in a D’Antoni system he’s going to get shots up. That’s not an issue. What’s an issue is that he doesn’t do much of anything else or hasn’t shown a willingness to be more well rounded. Fortunately for the Lakers, his shortsightedness allowed him to fall into the organization’s lap. Young is the most talented perimeter scorer the Lakers have had in tandem with Bryant since Eddie Jones. Let that sink in. Do you start him or bring him off the bench? Hopefully he realizes this is his last opportunity to get a meaningful contract, maybe taking a page from JR Smith’s season last year with the Knicks.
Wesley Johnson similarly is at a crossroads. No one doubts his athletic gifts, but his skill level has come into question. Can he knock down the open shot? Can he handle the ball well enough to put himself in the position to use his great athleticism at the rim? Johnson has a mentor-disciple relationship with Kobe Bryant already, due to their shared agent. He will have the chance again to show the world why he was taken 4th overall just 4 years ago. With good fortune he gets an opportunity to replicate the Trevor Ariza sidekick role that worked so well for Los Angeles.
5) Can Jordan Farmar become a starting point guard in the NBA?
Jordan Farmar is still just 26 years old but it feels like he’s been around forever. He’s not the same player he was in his first stint with the Lakers.He’s much better. In New Jersey he improved as a playmaker and made leaps as a shooter, making 44% percent of his threes with the Nets in 2011-2012. His time in Europe last season with Anadolu Efes helped him perfect the pick and roll. Farmar is this season’s x factor. A productive Farmar will keep Steve Nash fresher and healthier during the season and will allow them to pair together at times in small lineups. Farmar still has the chance to be a starter in the NBA as Nash comes to the end of his career. He has youth, athleticism, and experience and the trust of Kobe. His progress might allow the team to surprise this season.
The 2013-2014 season is nearly here. All is right with the world.