When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Dwight Howard in a trade from the Orlando Magic the stakes immediately got 1000 times higher. The Lakers, one of the marquee franchises in the NBA, already have a bullseye on their backs every time they go on the road to take on any team, and now that pressure will surely mount. The chants of beat L.A will surely be amplified by crowds across the NBA, especially the Oklahoma City Thunder whose fans present a college like atmosphere to any visiting team.
The common questions around the NBA world have been things like, how will Dwight Howard’s back hold up? Will Steve Nash be able to play well at the age of 38, and in a new system? Will Kobe Bryant be able to play effectively with a ball dominant point guard? And how effective will Howard be once he returns? All of these questions are important, but a lot oftimes the things that can win, or lose a championship for your team, is the small things like team chemistry, leadership, and bench play. Many times these thing are overlooked, but not by me, here’s a list of the three minor questions that could have a huge effect on the Lakers upcoming season.
1. Is Devin Ebanks Ready To Handle More Responsibility?- One of the Lakers weaknesses last season was at the small forward position, and it’s the same thing heading into the 2012-2013 season. But the Lakers did manage to improve the situation a bit by adding free-agent Antawn Jamison, and ensuring that Metta World Peace would be in tip-top shape heading into training camp, (Metta is down to be about 3% body fat if I’m not mistaken, and might be in the best shape of his life).
Still, though you never know what could happen, Metta and Jamison are not young by any means and an injury to either would cause the young Ebanks to assume a lot of responsibility. The only question is, is he capable of that? Last season in a blowout loss to the Thunder Ebanks was seen pulling an Andrew Bynum by first getting ejected and then subsequently ripping his jersey off on the way to the locker room. Certainly we cannot judge Ebanks by that one outburst as he has had a varying role on the Lakers, and has embraced each role no matter how small it may be. Ebanks got plugged into the starting lineup, andwas forced to guard the NBA’s leading scorer last season, Kevin Durant, and did as good a job as anyone can. Ebanks played phenomenal defense the entire game and the Lakers managed to squeak out a double OT win. If Ebanks can mature enough to assume a starting role then he will have a bright future with the Lakers.
2. Will The Backup PG’s Produce?- Even at 38 years old Steve Nash should still be able to produce for this Lakers team. His main role will not be to score, but rather to pass first, (like he loves to do), and hit open shots when he gets them. Even with the question marks surrounding his age, and back, Nash is a massive upgrade over Ramon Sessions, and Derek Fisher. The question of PG should not be about Nash, but rather about what PG will be able to produce off the bench. I don’t really see Steve Blake producing much off the bench, and he has always had problems with taking care of the ball, something the Lakers really can’t afford.
Chris Duhon is not too good either, although he does provide the Lakers with another three-point threat on top of free-agent addition Jodie Meeks. Duhon did not fare well in Orlando but many times all players need is a little change of scenery to change things around, just look at Shannon Brown, a player who was averaging 1.0 points before he got traded to the Lakers from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now he’s getting a huge payday from the Phoenix Suns and is one of the most electrifying players in the NBA. The Lakers won’t really need huge production from the bench, all they need is for someone to emerge as a consistent ball handler who does not turn the ball over, and can provide 5-7 timely points a game.
3. Jordan Hill Will Now Be A Focus Of Other Teams, Can He Still Produce?- When Derek Fisher was traded to the Houston Rockets just minutes before the NBA trade deadline in March it sent shock waves throughout Laker land. I remember checking my phone to see a text that read, the Los Angeles Lakers have just traded Derek Fisher and the first round pick acquired from the Dallas Mavericks in the Lamar Odom trade to the Rockets in exchange for Jordan Hill. My initial reaction was wow! My second was, who the heck is Jordan Hill. I had to scour the Internet to get some legit info on Hill, who was regarded as a good rebounder, but nothing more. Well Hill, in the aforementioned double OT win over the Thunder, proved to be huge.
Hill played 35:09 and finished with 14 points, and 15 rebounds, 6 of them offensive. Hill continued to be a double doublemachine for the Lakers through the rest of the season and into the playoffs. That production, though may have been a little eschewed, as teams were not exactly aware of him, and the sort of weapon he would be for the Lakers. Hill’s greatest strength is his rebounding, he scored mostly from short misses by Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Bynum, garbage put-backs you could call them. The two areas where Hill is strongest, are also two areas that can be easily defended if a team has the right weapons, and a good defensive coach, two things that the Thunder, the Lakers main rival in the Western Conference, do have.
Hill will certainly be game planned against this upcoming season as he will be the main key off a newly revamped Lakersbench. if Hill can adjust to the newly attracted attention brought on by his stellar play in a short period of time, then the Lakerscould be primed for a championship run.
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