Coming off a 4-1 series loss to Oklahoma City in the 2012 Western Semifinals, it was quite an offseason for the Lakers front office.
In essence, GM Mitch Kupchak and VP Jim Buss acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard for Andrew Bynum and future draft picks. That's a two-time MVP and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year who have collectively enjoyed multiple seasons on the All-NBA First Team, the point guard coming in a surprising sign-and-trade deal and the center the best fit possible with the team's personnel.
L.A.'s brain trust added free agents Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks to boost the bench, all the while managing to keep Pau Gasol in Los Angeles, setting up what promises to be the most intriguing of NBA seasons. As always, the franchise mentality is simple: championship or bust.
Little was revealed in a winless preseason (0-8) in which Howard and Kobe Bryant shared the floor for only one contest, the veterans rested and Mike Brown's coaching staff began to install the Princeton offense under the tutelage of assistant Eddie Jordan.
A foot strain kept Bryant out of the final week of training camp and has him questionable for the season opener -- he is, after all, Kobe Bryant, so most expect him to play -- but Howard looked fantastic after back surgery last April and is more than ready to debut on Oct. 30 against Dallas.
To make sure you are ready, we took a look at each of the 15 players on the roster, combining key statistics from 2011-12 alongside the expertise of player development coach Phil Handy, who revealed what each player added to his game in the offseason.
1,344 – Blocked shots Howard has accumulated through his eight years in the league, with just 10 active players ahead of the big man.
5 – Howard’s rank in WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player), a stat adapted to basketball by Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus.
Handy: Since he's been here, the biggest thing we've worked on as a staff are his base in the post, and his footwork down low. We work on some attacking and counter moves, his hooks, his free throws and form on his jump shots. We've touched a lot of stuff and I think he's made some improvements already. What stands out to me is he's a smart basketball player who has some guard skills. He's not stiff at all, he's a pretty fluid player who moves well, and his ability to handle the ball impressed me.
186 – Career blocked shots for Sacre at Gonzaga, which ranks second in program history.
3 – Gonzaga players to be drafted in the second round by the Lakers, with Sacre being the third. The other two are Paul Rogers in 1997 and Ronny Turiaf in 2005.
Handy: He's made huge progress since the summer league. He surprised me in the preseason with his toughness. He's had to practice against Dwight Howard every day, and he hasn't backed down. He got a look at some premier bigs in the league like LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMarcus Cousins and held up well. The biggest thing we're trying to work on are his motor, going hard every play, in addition to his roll game off picks. Surprisingly, he shoots the ball pretty well out to about 15 feet and he continues to work hard every day.