For one night at least, the panic has simmered down for the Lakers (1-3) and their fans after the team captures their first win of the season against the hapless Detroit Pistons (0-3), 108-79. The win may have come against a team who is also struggling with their own identity but the way in which the Lakers played the game is what's most important.
The acclimation of the hybrid Princeton offense has been widely used as the biggest reason for an 0-8 finish of exhibition games and an 0-3 start of the regular season. But underneath the surface lies the team's inability to put the effort on the defensive end and the disturbing rate of committing unforced errors on offense that truly prevented the Lakers from winning more games.
The Lakers came out of the locker room focused on energy and bent on following a different plan to get things rolling. The team went to Pau Gasol early before giving Dwight Howard his share of touches. It worked. The job both players did on offense pretty much laid the foundation of the ballgame for the Lakers.
The last time the Lakers (0-2) dropped their first 3 games of the regular season happened to be the final year of Jerry West's coaching career. That team finished the year 47-35 but lost to the Seattle Supersonics in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Interestingly enough, that squad had 4 starters that averaged in double-figures scoring and had a dominant center in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. So what's the catch? Poor defense. They allowed their opponent to score 109.9 points per game which nearly matched their 112.9 points per production on offense.
Against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers (1-0), today's Laker team is still finding their way defensively while learning how to play together as a unit on offense. It's not a very comfortable situation for any team even as talent-laden as the Lakers. But is that enough excuse to lose to a Dirk Nowitzki-less Dallas Mavericks team on opening night and a very young Portland Trailblazer team the following night? Ok, they probably would've lost at the Rose Garden no matter what. But to Dallas? That should't have happened. But it did.
Many Laker fans are already calling for the head of Mike Brown but Kobe Bryant, when asked for his thoughts on the overall climate of Laker nation, says not to panic and "shut up". Kobe went on reminding everyone that the new offense will take some time for the team to get used to.
Basketball is a funny thing. Talent and discipline make a team a title contender. But without the drive, the heart, the desire, everything good about a team won't matter when it comes to winning games and earning the ultimate prize.
The Lakers love to point at the new offensive system as the reason for all of the discord on both ends of the hardwood. They want team chemistry yet fail to help one another on defense. They express the desire to win but rarely show any effort in something as simple and as fundamental as boxing out.
I've seen basketball played in every level under the sun. And the game has yet to prove that a package of talent, experience, intelligence and personal awards is guaranteed to bring home the gold. Playing the game in the NBA alone requires a huge amount of preparation and sacrifices for every player. So if we're talking about championships, a team also better have that attitude to do absolutely anything and everything to win a game no matter what the opposition throws at them.
Call whatever you want between the Lakers (0-6) and the Clippers (3-3) but don't call it a rivalry. In fact, it's ridiculously silly to even brand the Clippers a "rival" in Los Angeles when you consider numerous factors. For one, how many people would even mention Clippers when you ask them to associate sports and L.A.?
But as impressive are the Lakers' starting unit this season, the roster for the Clippers is the deepest this side of Denver. And what's interesting about a lot of their supporting players is they don't need the ball to be productive. Guys like Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill, and Ronny Turiaf are all unselfish players who don't need plays called for them to produce. Not sure how much their depth would matter in the playoffs when rotation is generally tightened, but it's a blessing for any coach to have that much options available on demand.
Not saying that Mike Brown has zero options with his bench. It's just that the margin for error for the Lakers' second unit isn't as wide as the Clippers. Let's face it, the success of the Lakers bench will rely on the success of Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill each minute they're on the floor.
Kobe Bryant was apparently kicked on the foot during Sunday's loss to the Sacramento Kings which left the foot with enough soreness that Bryant missed Tuesday's practice. The pain is still "pretty high" according to Kobe and is now leaning towards not playing against the Clippers on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, teammate Dwight Howard is also battling soreness on his surgically repaired back after posting impressive numbers against the Kings in his first game in purple and gold. Howard played nearly 33 minutes last Sunday. But unlike Bryant, Howard did participate in some drills except full-scrimmages.
The Lakers continue to trim down their roster with only 8 days left until the start of the regular season. Today, the team had waived forward Chris Douglas-Roberts and rookie center Greg Somogyi bringing the total roster to 16 players.
Douglas-Roberts was the New Jersey Nets' 40th pick in the 2008 NBA draft and spent 3 years in the league before playing for Italy's Virtus Bologna last season. Chris was signed by the Lakers on media day and quickly made an impression on Kobe Bryant. In the 4 games he played in pre-season, Douglas-Roberts averaged 4 points and 0.8 rebounds in 8 minutes.
You can feel the energy of the crowd flowing through the walls and hallways of Staples Center. Weeks of anticipation has boiled down to the mere introduction of the 6' 11", 267-pound beast of a center that has captured the attention and admiration of an entire city.
Dwight Howard is FINALLY back in action!
After months and weeks of guessing when he'll finally put on that purple and gold armor, the Lakers announced just a couple of hours before tip-off that Howard will make his long-awaited debut as the team's newest superstar big man against the visiting Sacramento Kings (4-1).
In addition to building team chemistry, learning new playbooks and ironing out basic fundamentals and executions, the pre-season is also about having the opportunity to showcase the results of all the hardwork a player put on over the summer to improve his game.
While Devin Ebanks has never been short on putting work on becoming a better a player, his 20-point outing on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-5 from distance, is proof enough that he deserves to be a regular in Mike Brown's rotation this season. Comparing Ebanks to the rest of the bench in exhibition games so far, he's the only one who seems more confident and more focused than anybody else.
Brown has talked about the possibility of sliding Ebanks to the shooting guard position before. Seeing that Devin is averaging 7.3 points at 66.7% shooting in pre-season, that might not be a bad proposition.
There's only 11 days until opening night but the Lakers (0-4) have yet to scratch a W in exhibition games. The way things are going so far, Laker fans might see Dwight Howard suited on the floor before seeing the Lakers get the slippery win.
If you're one of those who thinks Time Warner Cable also controls Lakers news and don't bother getting on the internet until that highly-anticipated deal with every other carrier pushes through, the Lakers are already teasing their fans by mentioning that Sunday's game against these same Sacramento Kings (2-1) just might be Howard's debut in purple and gold.
Then again, according to ESPN, the Lakers are already picturing Lebron James playing alongside Howard in a Lakers jersey...in 2014.
I'm just hoping we don't have to wait that long before we see the Lakers win.
0-3? So what?
I get that some Laker fans just don't like seeing the Lakers lose (since I'm constantly around Laker fans nearly everywhere I go). Neither do I. But let's remember that this is PRE-SEASON. As in, losses don't count and neither do wins.
Last Saturday, the Lakers got to see the Utah Jazz (2-1) for the first time this year but that elusive "W" is still nowhere to be found. However, the starting unit, especially Metta World Peace, continue to show that they're ready for the season. Well, at least offensively.