Somehow, some way the Los Angeles Lakers were able to pull off yet another blockbuster trade and have instantly catapulted into a position to contend for a championship. When the Lakers acquired superstar center Dwight Howard it was easily the biggest pickup of any team so far in this NBA offseason. I truly think the Lakers got the best end of the deal and I applaud management for getting a deal done. Any time you have the opportunity to attain the best center in the NBA you don’t even blink twice about it. The Lakers pulled the trigger and now have one of the best lineups, on paper, in the NBA. What is even more impressive is that the Lakers were able to retain power forward Pau Gasol. It is a classic case of the rich getting richer, but I for one am glad that the Lakers put an end to the “Dwightmare.”
Prior to attaining Howard the Lakers were able to agree to terms with point guard Steve Nash. The Lakers are the Lakers and they always make headlines, even in the offseason. Before getting Howard, Nash to the Lakers was the biggest headline of the summer. With the addition of Nash and Howard it looks like the Lakers are ready to contend for an NBA championship and many believe they will face the defending champs, the Miami Heat, in the NBA Finals. However, the make-up of this Lakers team is starting to look awfully familiar.
The Lakers’ starting lineup will now look something like this:
- Point Guard: Steve Nash
- Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
- Small Forward: Antwan Jamison or Metta
- Power Forward: Pau Gasol
- Center: Dwight Howard
The lineup looks great on paper and that looks like a lineup that was built to win a championship. However, the Lakers have been through a roster overhaul before and have assembled a team much like this before. Think back to that crazy 2003-04 NBA season when the Lakers starting lineup looked like this:
- Point Guard: Gary Payton
- Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
- Small Forward: Devean George
- Power Forward: Karl Malone
- Center: Shaquille O’Neal
This team finished the regular season with a 56-26 record and went on to lose the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons in five games. I remember when the Lakers put this team together and thinking: “This team was built to win a championship; there is no way they’ll lose.” However, the team dominated in the regular season and in the first three rounds of the playoffs before crumbling in the NBA Finals.
The similarities with the 2003-04 and the 2012-13 teams are definitely there but will the results be the same? It seems like the Lakers are following the same formula they did back in 2004. Both teams had aging all-star point guards in Payton and Nash. Bryant is still there at the shooting guard position. Furthermore, the Lakers’ weakest position is still at small forward much like it was in 2004.
The Lakers frontcourt also looks very similar to the 2004 team. The 2004 Lakers had Hall of Famer Malone and he was in the twilight of his career when he joined the Lakers. The 2012 Lakers have Gasol who is aging himself and some could argue is also in the twilight of his career at the moment, although I think he has a little more in the tank than Malone did in 2004. To bring the formula full circle the Lakers need to have the most dominant center in the NBA. The 2004 Lakers had O’Neal who is arguably the most dominant center of his time and these current Lakers now have Howard. Does having the most dominant center in the NBA mean you can win a championship? For the 2004 Lakers the answer is no, but what about the 2012 Lakers?
There were a lot of factors as to why the 2004 Lakers failed. For one, there was the Bryant-O’Neal drama that was clearly a distraction for the team. Furthermore, there were a lot of egos on the team besides Bryant and O’Neal. Payton was often seen arguing with Bryant and head coach Phil Jackson during timeouts and Malone was also not always happy. In the end the 2004 Lakers beat themselves. This team was made to bring a championship home and they could just not deliver.
These 2012 Lakers should take a look back and see what not to do in their quest for a championship. Howard and Bryant will have to get along better than Bryant and O’Neal did. I believe that Bryant has matured and is beyond feuding now, but the same cannot be said for Howard who acted selfishly this entire offseason could potentially bring some headaches to the Lakers. I think the main difference with this 2012 team and the 2004 team is Nash.
Nash will be instrumental in the Lakers success as he has always been a level-headed, no nonsense type of player. If Nash can make the Lakers go then they will have a legitimate shot at bringing home another title. Furthermore, this entire Lakers team will need to mesh together and Howard will have to be willing to give it his all. Howard needs to come to the realization that being on the Lakers right now is his best chance to win a championship.
Even though the Lakers have Howard that does not mean a championship is guaranteed and the Lakers need to look at their own history and learn from their mistakes.