L.A. has started off the year at 0-2, losing to both the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers. Neither game was close, as the Lakers lost by a total of 18 points.
Los Angeles entered the season with extremely high expectations. They traded for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, with the hopes of winning their first title since 2010. Through two games, the Lakers haven’t looked like a championship-caliber club, and there have been calls to fire head coach Mike Brown.
While L.A. has struggled to start the season, the Lakers should be fine. Their roster is too good for them to continue their losing ways.
Two games are much too small of a sample size to make a judgment on a team like the Lakers. With the additions of Howard and Nash, forty percent of Los Angeles’ starting lineup is new. It will take some time for these new players to gel.
The biggest issue in the first two games has been the team’s defense. An average of 107.5 points per game clearly won’t get the job done. With Howard in the middle of the defense, don’t expect it to continue for much longer.
From 2009-2011, Howard won three straight Defensive Player of the Year Awards. If he didn’t have to undergo back surgery in April, he might have won the award for a fourth straight time.
Howard clearly isn’t fully recovered from his injury. He had trouble dunking the ball in the opener, and can’t jump like he could when he was 100 percent healthy. As the season moves along and Howard’s back gets up to full strength, he should return to being the most dominant defensive force in basketball.
The Lakers played eight preseason games, and in only one of those were all five of their starters healthy. Howard missed six contests with his back injury, and Kobe Bryant didn’t play in the final two exhibition games with a right foot strain.
The Lakers were expected to be the best team in the West, but they didn’t lose to bad teams. The Mavericks were without Dirk Nowitzki, but still have plenty of talented players. Portland has a lot of good young players, including Damian Lillard, who is one of the frontrunners to win Rookie of the Year. The Blazers have always played the Lakers well at home, and their victory wasn’t much of an upset.
Even if it takes the Lakers a while to gel, they don’t play in a very tough division. The Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings aren’t expected to be much of a threat. The Blazers could have a bounce-back season, but they won’t likely be one of the top teams in the Conference. Chris Paul and the Clippers might be the only real threat for supremacy in the Pacific Division.
It’s understandable why so many people think the Lakers will have trouble this season. With expectations so high, it came as a shock to many to see L.A. struggle so mightily. However, such a start should have been expected.
The Miami Heat’s Big Three didn’t gel immediately. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh went 9-8 in their first 17 games together. Eventually, they learned to play together, and made NBA Finals appearances in their two seasons on the same team.
Despite their early problems, the Lakers might have the most talented team in the NBA.
Howard is still the best center in the league. Bryant has shown that he’s as good as he was a year ago, making 62 percent of his shots to start the year. Pau Gasol is one of the NBA’s best big men, and Nash is too good to continue dishing out just four assists per game.
The rest of the NBA better take advantage now, because once the Lakers put it all together, they might be the favorites to win the 2013 title.