It’s been over four months since the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs. After an eventful offseason, L.A. is ready to begin working towards another championship.
The Lakers began training camp on Monday, as the team met the media for the first time since the Thunder knocked them out of the 2012 postseason. It’s the first Lakers camp for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. The team acquired both players during the summer.
With a revamped roster, Kobe Bryant is feeling good heading into the 2012-13 campaign, and wasn’t shy about expressing his optimism. The veteran called this team the best that he’s ever been a part of “on paper,” according to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.
Los Angeles is certainly improved from a year ago. The additions of Howard and Nash have made them, once again, the favorites in the West. L.A. is the favorite in their conference to win the NBA Finals, with their odds set at 5/2.
L.A. made multiple blockbuster trades in hopes of avoiding three straight disappointing postseason finishes. They didn’t get past the second round in each of the last two seasons.
Bryant has been involved with a number of great teams since being drafted. He’s won five titles in his 16-year career.
The one team that he took to the Finals that didn’t win a ring may have been the best Lakers team on paper in quite some time. In the last year that Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal played together, the Lakers added Karl Malone and Gary Payton to an already impressive roster.
Malone and Payton were at the tail end of their careers, but the future Hall of Famers still produced at a high level. They averaged a combined 27.8 points per game, playing aside Bryant and O’Neal.
While the 2004 team has a lot in common with this year’s club, the current Los Angeles roster may be more equipped to win a title. Nash and Bryant may not be the best players at their position like they once were, but they’re not far from No.1. Howard is the best center in the league and Pau Gasol is still a top big man in the NBA.
A few complimentary players also joined the Lakers in their quest to win a title. Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks will come off the L.A. bench.
The club looks good on paper, but could encounter some problems when they take the court. Howard is coming off back surgery and could miss the beginning of the season. Bryant and Nash both have a combined 32 years of experience, and there are some questions about whether or not they’ll take a step back, at their advanced age.
It still remains to be seen how the new lineup will play together. L.A. has four potential All-Stars in the starting lineup, and they could have trouble sharing the ball. Bryant led the NBA with 23 shot attempts per contest last season, and may have to adjust his game in order for the new players to mesh.
The new-look Lakers are set to play their first exhibition game together on Oct. 7 against the Warriors. They open the regular season on Oct. 30 against the Mavericks.