Playoff Contention: Los Angeles Lakers
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Who are these Lakers?
You don't know. I don't know. Heck, it's April and they don't even know who they are.
Are they the team that could score on any defense no matter what offense they ran, no matter who they threw out there on the court, putting up 105.6 points per 100 possessions and ranking eighth in the NBA
Are they the team that that finished the season playing .700 ball, going 28-12 to roar into the playoffs on the final day of the season?
Or are they the squad that never quite learned how to play defense as a team--ranking 19th and allowing 103.6 points per 100 possessions--lacking in communication and cohesiveness, despite boasting several former All-Defense performers?
Or are they the team that has rallied in the absence of their leader Kobe Bryant, lost for the season last week to Achilles surgery? Are they the squad that held the mighty Spurs and Rockets offenses to 181 points and .472 true shooting percentage in their most recent two regulation games and an overtime?
Who knows who these Lakers truly are?
I'll tell you they aren't.
They are not Kobe Bryant's Lakers this postseason.
So whether he planned on going into Michael mode or Magic mode is really irrelevant at this point.
For the first time this season, we will see new Laker lineups.
Will Pau Gasol be directing the flow as a point big? Will he become Spain's Pau Gasol in an effort to lead the Lakers to postseason gold.
Will Dwight Howard be the monster finisher as a result of some newly-formed high-low combo ala the Gasol Brothers in the Olympics and World Games?
Will the two bigs suddenly anchor a defense that has been non-existent in Coach Mike D'Antoni's coaching career, as illustrated in the past two games?
Or will Steve Nash come back from injury and finally run Mike D's legendary "Seven Seconds Or Less" offense to perfection, now that he has finally got the ball in his hands?
Or will Nash still be in the Lakers' MASH unit, thus giving Steve Blake 15 more seconds of fame to show the world why the Lakers brought/bought him from Portland in the first place?
So many questions. I have no answers.
Who knows what is going to happen?
But I'll tell you one thing I know: Everybody is watching.
Try this on for size: the Lakers likely No. 1 playoff lineup--assuming Steve Nash is healthy--has only played together three minutes this season. Yes, you read that right: THREE MINUTES! Maybe because Kobe was seemingly playing 47 or 48 minutes every game, we never got to see the other five best Lakers play together. But there it is in black-and-white: Nash, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace, Gasol and Howard have played together for three minutes in the 2012-13 season, registering a +1.7 net rating, 101.7 offensive rating and 100.0 defensive rating in the smallest sample size in history--even smaller than those Costco snack samples they offer so generously at lunch time. Crazy, huh? The lineup that got L.A. into the playoffs the final two days at least had more time together. That lineup--subbing in Blake for the injured Nash--registered a +1.0 net rating in 54 minutes together. So in the intro when I say we have no idea how this new team will play together, I am speaking from a factual and statistical foundation. We shall see. And for those of you interested, the Lakers Fab 5 combo of Nash, Kobe, Metta, Pau and Dwight--first names because they're celebrities--those stars had a +4.7 net rating in 189 minutes together this season.
THE 5,000 MINUTE RULE
The 5,000 Minute Rule says most championship teams have five-plus players together for at least 5,000 minutes before they win a championship, and the Lakers only have three players in The 5G Club. And one of those players is out for the season (Kobe Bryant, who played 54,031 minutes with the Lakers). The others are Pau Gasol (16,880) and Metta World Peace (10,600).
LORD OF THE RINGS
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol won two rings together with the Lakers 2009 and 2010 NBA championship teams. Don't forget, Metta World Peace also joined the dynamic duo as a starter on the latter 2010 NBA title squad.
Hollinger Playoff Odds say L.A. has a 2 percent chance to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and 0.6 percent shot to win the NBA championship; Basketball-Reference says the Lakers have a 0.5 percent shot to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and 0.1 percent chance to win the title.
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C DWIGHT HOWARD: 76 games, 35.8 mpg, 17.1 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 19.5 PER, +3.4 Net, +4.5 On/Off
C Earl Clark: 59 games, 23.1 mpg, 7.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 12.5 PER, -2.6 Net, -7.0 On/Off
C Robert Sacre: 32 games, 6.3 mpg, 1.3 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 3.5 PER, -43.1 Net, -45.1 On/Off
PF PAU GASOL: 49 games, 33.8 mpg, 13.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 16.7 PER, +3.3 Net, +2.3 On/Off
PF Antawn Jamison: 76 games, 21.5 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 15.4 PER, +2.3 Net, +0.6 On/Off
PF Jordan Hill (injured): 29 games, 15.8 mpg, 6.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 18.5 PER, -3.8 Net, -6.5 On/Off
SF METTA WORLD PEACE: 75 games, 33.7 mpg, 12.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 12.6 PER, +4.9 & +8.1
SF Devin Ebanks: 19 games, 10.4 mpg, 3.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 6.4 PER, -6.6 Net, -9.0 On/Off
SG JODIE MEEKS: 78 games, 21.3 mpg, 7.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 11.4 PER, +2.5 Net, +0.9 On/Off
SG Andrew Goudelock: 1 game, 6.0 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, -6.4 PER, -88.3 Net, -97.7 On/Off
SG Kobe Bryant (injured): 78 games, 38.6 mpg, 27.3 ppg, 6.0 apg, 23.0 PER, +2.7 & +3.3
PG STEVE NASH: 50 games, 32.5 mpg, 12.7 ppg, 6.7 apg, 16.0 PER, +1.4 Net, -1.0 On/Off
PG Steve Blake: 45 games, 26.1 mpg, 7.3 ppg, 3.8 apg, 11.8 PER, +2.1 Net, +0.2 On/Off
PG Chris Duhon: 46 games, 17.8 mpg, 2.9 ppg, 2.9 apg, 8.0 PER, +0.5 Net, -1.8 On/Off
PG Darius Morris: 48 games, 14.2 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 1.6 apg, 8.1 PER, +0.8 Net, -1.4 On/Off
2011-12 GONE LAKERS (.621)
C Andrew Bynum: 60 games, 35.2 mpg, 18.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 22.9 PER, +2.3 Net, +1.9 On/Off
PG Ramon Sessions: 64 games, 26.7 mpg, 11.3 ppg, 5.5 apg, 16.7 PER, +1.0 Net, -1.3 On/Off
SF Matt Barnes: 63 games, 22.9 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 15.5 PER, +2.8 Net, +2.1 On/Off
PF Josh McRoberts: 50 games, 14.4 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 10.9 PER, -6.1 Net, -7.2 On/Off
PF Troy Murphy: 59 games, 16.2 mpg, 3.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 9.0 PER, +0.1 Net, -2.4 On/Off
SF Christian Eyenga: 7 games, 14.6 mpg, 2.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 4.8 PER, +6.5 Net, +4.5 On/Off
* Lakers that did not play in 2012 NBA Playoffs; returning players in boldface