By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
Posted Oct 16 2012 2:02PM
LOS ANGELES -- Start of the season, and the Lakers have already outlasted everyone.
They didn't have to heist an All-Star, the way Pau Gasol arrived on a silver platter. They didn't have to make a risky move to add a starter, as they did when they signed Ron Artest to a free-agent deal, broke up a title lineup and let Trevor Ariza walk. They didn't have to endure painstaking years of baby steps to watch Andrew Bynum finally develop into the real deal.
They just had to wait.
That will be the bottom line the rest of the league will have to deal with if this all goes according to Laker plans. That this new formidable lineup never had to happen and only came together through strange circumstances. It was the patience of the front office.
Consider the number of teams that took a shot at prying Dwight Howard from the Magic, and then factor in the number of re-worked offers each of those teams made. The amount of crumpled-up paper near trash cans across the continent would have required fleets of garbage trucks to haul away. Yet none closed the deal.
Howard could have been traded in the previous year, to any of several possible destinations, and no one would have been surprised. L.A.'s rivals had month upon month to do something about the Lakers getting a bridge to the future, just as L.A. was finally showing its age, just as L.A. was fading to the point of managing a combined two wins in the second round over two years of trying. Still nothing happened.
So the Lakers got the best center in the world -- if fully recovered from back surgery -- in a four-team trade at the cost of Bynum, two guys from the end of the bench, a protected first-round pick and a second-round pick, and without having to take back any really bad contracts from Orlando.
And consider the number of ways Steve Nash could have been anywhere else. He didn't want to join the enemy, for one thing. But the proximity of Phoenix, where his kids live with their mother, made L.A. impossibly attractive.
So, the Lakers got one of the greatest floor generals for first-round picks in 2013 and '15 plus second rounders in 2013 and '14, after the Suns agreed to do the sign-and-trade that created the cap space in appreciation of all Nash had done in Phoenix.
There was no logical way for this new championship contender to come together, yet here they are. Nash and Kobe Bryant in the backcourt, Metta World Peace and Gasol at forward, Howard at center with plans to be ready for opening night after back surgery. The bench needs to prove it can deliver. But what a starting lineup. What a summer. What patience.
1. The Lakers have a lot of experience and recognizable names among the reserves, but little in the way of dependable. Adding Antawn Jamison was key. Now L.A. needs Jordan Hill to repeat his late-season showing of 2011-12 and consistent play from Steve Blake or Chris Duhon in the backcourt.
2. Mike Brown said he will be incorporating parts of the 2011-12 offense with the Princeton offense that new assistant Eddie Jordan is implementing, making it three changes in as many years for the Lakers. They went from Phil Jackson's triangle to Season 1 with Brown and now the tweaks in Season 2. That's a lot of changes.
3. Kobe Bryant said this is still his team, and he's right from an aesthetics standpoint. He is the Alpha Male and the strongest locker-room presence. But Bryant also knows he will have to make sure Howard and Nash are incorporated, and feel included, in every important moment. Kobe cannot dominate the ball or the Lakers universe.
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LAST YEAR: 41-25, 1st in Pacific
FINISH: Lost in Western Conference semifinals
2011-12 TEAM LEADERS
|Complete 2011-12 Stats|
STEVE NASH, POINT GUARD
12.5 PPG | 3.0 RPG | 10.7 APG
He had more assists than anyone in the NBA last season, so it's clear that Nash is not too old to have a new beginning. Getting used to a new offense could take some time, though.
KOBE BRYANT, SHOOTING GUARD
27.9 PPG | 5.4 RPG | 4.6 APG
With a load of 38.5 minutes a game last season -- at age 33 -- Kobe is thrilled at how the reinforcements just keep coming. But will he share the ball when it counts?
METTA WORLD PEACE, SMALL FORWARD
7.7 PPG | 3.4 RPG | 2.2 APG
After a terrible shooting year last season -- 29.6 percent for 3s -- the enigmatic stopper could give the Lakers an unexpected windfall if he produces. If he produces.
PAU GASOL, POWER FORWARD
17.4 PPG | 10.4 RPG | 3.6 APG
With the non-stop trade rumors done, at least for now, one of the best-passing big men in the business can finally exhale and remind people what he can really do.
DWIGHT HOWARD, CENTER
20.6 PPG | 10.8 RPG | 1.9 APG
His surgically repaired back will be a question early in the season, but if he's indeed back and serious enough for Kobe, he'll create a Dwightmare season for his opponents.
|Antawn Jamison||6-9||235||F||Lakers desperately need his scoring off the bench.|
|Steve Blake||6-3||172||G||Hitting shots means he can play with Steve Nash.|
|Jordan Hill||6-10||235||F-C||Hoping to sustain a very good finish to 2011-12.|
ADDED: G Chris Duhon, C Dwight Howard, F Antawn Jamison, G Jodie Meeks, G Steve Nash
LOST: F Matt Barnes, C Andrew Bynum, F Josh McRoberts, F Troy Murphy, G Ramon Sessions
STEVE NASH, G
Similar to Jason Kidd's situation in New York, Nash is going to have the big task of figuring out the best way to spread the ball around to get enough quality shots for Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and fellow new Laker Dwight Howard.
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