Few teams entered the 2012-2013 NBA season with higher expectations than the Los Angeles Lakers.
After getting swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, L.A. may have had the most disappointing finish to the year.
Los Angeles added multiple stars in the offseason, completing trades for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. They were the favorites to meet the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, according to most casinos in Las Vegas. The end result was two different head coaches, a No.7 seed and no playoff wins.
Now, the Lakers head into the summer of 2013 with a lot of questions. Will Dwight Howard re-sign with Los Angeles? Will Mike D’Antoni be fired? Will Kobe Bryant return from his injury as a lesser player?
Despite all the obstacles that the Lakers face, there are a few reasons that the team can be optimistic about next season.
The Lakers could not have expected to stay healthy for the entire season. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that a 39-year-old point guard went down with an injury, and Howard may have retuned prematurely from back surgery.
However, L.A. was hit with extremely bad luck this season.
An injury to all five of a team’s starters is not a regular occurrence. Even a role player like Steve Blake wasn’t able to escape the injury bug this season. Reserve big man Jordan Hill missed a majority of the season, and Antawn Jamison said he was playing with an injured wrist.
The Lakers can expect to have better luck with health next season, because it probably couldn't get much worse than 2012-2013.
One Head Coach
Between Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni and interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff, the Lakers experienced too many changes at the top this season. That won’t likely be the case in 2013-2014.
Jim Buss has publicly supported D’Antoni, who wasn’t given a chance to spend a full season with the Lakers. He may not be the right coach for this team, but being around them for an entire 82-game schedule will help.
After a rough start, the D’Antoni and the Lakers picked things up in the second half of the season. There’s a good chance that will continue next year.
A torn Achilles kept Bryant out of playoff action this season, which may only fuel his desire in the upcoming year. The future Hall of Famer has vowed to come back strong, and he should be around for his team in the 2014 postseason.
Bryant is entering the final year of his contract and has intimated that he could retire when his deal runs out. The shooting guard showed when he was healthy that he’s still one of the best scorers in the NBA. If next season does turn out to be his last, he’ll do all he can to make sure that it’s one to remember.
If the Lakers sign Howard to a maximum-salary contract, like many expect them to do, it will limit what they can do in free agency. However, the team should still be able to add multiple impact players.
Players who are looking to win a championship have shown that they will take less money for a chance to win. Los Angeles will be able to add helpful pieces at the right price.
L.A. will also start the year with Pau Gasol, who has become a very valuable trade asset. Gasol’s improved play the end of the season showed that he can still perform at an elite level. He’s due to make a lot of money in 2013-2014, but his expiring contract makes him a hot commodity to several NBA teams.
Gasol could be a part of the Lakers resurgence next year, but he could also be turned into a few assets that will help L.A. become a top contender.