LOS ANGELES — When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Dwight Howard a few weeks ago they automatically vaulted themselves from title contenders to title favorites. The Lakers are not the favorites at this moment, the Miami Heat rightfully are, but they have definitely put themselves into a top three situation, along with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Still, though there are many questions surrounding this newly configured team that, as two NBA players, Chris Bosh, and Kevin Durant, have pointed out, is the best team in the league, on paper. Here are the two biggest question marks that could derail the Lakers hopes for a 17th NBA championship.
1. Kobe Bryant’s Willingness To Play In An Offense Run By A True Point Guard- Immediately after the Lakers acquired perennial All-Star point guard Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns, in a deal that was almost as lopsided as the coup for Dwight Howard, many so called “experts” began to question whether Kobe would be able to play alongside Nash. The reasoning behind bringing this question was that the best pure point guard that Kobe has ever player with was Nick Van Exel, who isn’t as good as Nash. But this theory, in my opinion, is kind of dumb.
First off people are saying that Kobe won’t be able to share ball handling duties with Nash who, throughout his career, has been a ball dominant point guard. Nash commands total control of the offense while at the same time making everyone around him better, the likes of which the Lakers, fans and players alike, haven’t seen since the greatest point guard of all time laced them up in the locker room of the old Forum, Magic Johnson. But, like Kobe has said many times, he does not want to handle the ball, the only reason he has done it for so long now is because, as a shooting guard and simply great all-around player, he was the best option at point guard for theLakers.
Let’s face it, Ramon Sessions wasn’t getting it done, Derek Fisher was simply just a good spot-up shooter in the Lakers last two title runs, and the rest of the Lakers point guards, since Kobe has been in the league, don’t really call for a mention in this story, (except forGary Payton, even though he was past his prime when he joined the Lakers, who managed to average 5.5 assists in 2003-2004). Kobe has played point/shooting guard for the Lakers for the last 5 or so years, and quite simply is fed up with it.
Kobe’s willingness to give the ball duties up to Nash should not be a question simply because he is still probably the first option on this Lakers offense and will still get his usual looks, except this time, with Howard, Nash, PauGasol, Antawn Jamison, and Jodie Meeks, they will probably be wide open, which is even better for him. As for the theory that Kobe will not be able to co-exist with Nash, saying any sort of thing like that is just calling into question one of the smartest, and greatest players of all time. Kobe’s basketball IQ is other worldly, trust me he’ll find a way for this to work, his aspirations for a 6th championship depend on it.
2. Will Dwight Howard Be Able To Share The Block With Pau Gasol- Now to me this one is a little trickier, for Pau Gasol that is. You see last season the question by every Laker fan was, what is wrong with Gasol?Laker fans were used to seeing a low-post multi-skilled big-man who could create shots down-low with ease. But last season, and the season before, Gasol’s production got brought into question, especially by myself, and fans were begging for Gasol to be traded, some still are. But what many people did not understand was that in theLakers playoff loss to the Dallas Mavericks two seasons ago, and throughout last season, Andrew Bynum was beginning to be implemented more and more into the Lakers offense. This, in turn, spelled trouble for Gasol.
Gasol was asked more and more to give up his spot on the block, relinquish the low-post duties to Bynum, and still produce at an extremely high level. Now I don’t care who you are but that is just not possible. Gasol has always had a good mid-range game, but the Lakers were pushing Gasol as far out as the three-point line, and asking him to hit these sort of shots consistently, and it just wasn’t reasonable to ask of a player so used to playing a certain way his entire basketball life.
Gasol worked extremely hard to try and improve his outside shooting, and he did well, but there is just so much you can ask of a 7 footer who is so used to working the block. So instead of Andrew Bynum insert Dwight Howard into the Lakers offense this season, and will things be any different for Gasol this year? Definitely not. There is no way on this earth that they are going to give Gasol the block over Howard, unless they want Dwight bricking 15 footers all day which I’m pretty sure they don’t. So all the people who are saying that Gasol will thrive with Nash in the line-up may be wrong, I mean it is going to be the same situation as last season.
Yes Gasol will have an extremely more talented point guard, but he is still going to be asked to concede low-post duties, or at the very least share them occasionally. Now the part about sharing the low-post is where Howard comes in. While in Orlando Howard had all the freedom in the world down-low, and I think the Lakers would be wise to do the same thing with him here in L.A. Either way, though Gasol will once again be the scapegoat in thisLakers offense when things do not go well simply because of the uber high expectations among Laker fans. Gasolwill be able to share the post, as he has already demonstrated with Bynum, but will Howard be able to? Unlike the first issue raised in this article I don’t really know, or have any sort of answer, because it is just too hard to tell.
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