Halloween couldn’t have arrived any sooner for Lakers fans, with everyone hoping for a glimpse at the newest Super Team treat, courtesy of Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss. This Lakers team was to be super scary, dominating the Western Conference by a landslide (post-Harden trade to the Houston Rockets).
But it only took two games for this epic-on-paper team to trick fans. Already, Kobe Bryant is donning the Mad Mamba mask-that scowling, frustrated version of the Black Mamba that’s clearly fed up with the shoddy play of his team.
Not that the Lakers haven’t showed up to play. Bryant is shooting a remarkable 61% from the field and Pau Gasol is averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds. Despite back surgery, a summer of rehabilitation and about one month of practice, Dwight Howard is a showing everyone why he’s such a phenomenal upgrade over a disinterested and listless Andrew Bynum. In the meantime, two-time MVP Steve Nash is trying to discover the role of quarterback in this Princeton-style hybrid and his freedom to audible into a more traditional Pick and Roll offense.
And somewhere, Metta World Peace is eating almonds out of over-sized trophy cups.
There is too much talent on the Lakers roster for it to suffer long term (sans injury) in terms of point production. The biggest trick that the Lakers have pulled off so far is its offensively horrid defense. With two former Defensive Players of the Year, an All-NBA First Team guard, and a defensive-minded coach, fans should expect something that resembles lock down individual defense, or even something similar to the defense from last year. Instead, the Lakers defense is making stars out of rookie and mid-level players, with the team yielding 215 points and three 30-point quarters in two games. That’s not going to get it done, no matter how many offensive weapons the Lakers have at their disposal.
A symptom of this poor defense is directly attributed to the Lakers handling the ball like a hot potato. A lack of crisp passing and poor communication has led to 39 turnovers in two games. It’s clear that that the offense is a work in progress, but transition defense will continue to suffer as a result if the Lakers do not polish this up.
Remember, these losses came against two revamped rosters in Dallas (without Nowitzki, Kaman) and Portland: teams that will be struggling to secure low-seed playoff positions.
Is this a lack of focus or conditioning? It’s probably a little bit of both, but I’d lean toward the former. After the Lakers loss to the Portland Trailblazers, Steve Nash told reporters, “We’re taking things for granted a little bit. We’re just not sharp. We’re not early on any of our rotations. We’re not necessarily proactive and we’re reacting, and I think it’s getting us in trouble.”
The Lakers play the hometown rival Clippers aka Lob City on Friday night. With Steve Nash likely to sit out due to a leg contusion, let’s hope the Lakers stop taking things for granted and join the rest of the NBA for the regular season by notching their first win of 2012-2013.