January 22, 2013
I know that all the Los Angeles Lakers fans are planning a NBA title celebration and parade in June 2013. However, there are multiple reasons why the Lakers Nation should be concerned. No team has ever started 1-4 and won a NBA championship. No interim coach has ever won a championship in any of the major professional sports. And, D’Antoni has never won the big game or a championship series in the NBA. The Lakers are still suffering from the same ailments that they suffered from with Head Coach Mike Brown, old age, poor athleticism, and questionable coaching strategies.
Though the Lakers have two sure Hall of Fame players, one more possible candidate for the Hall of Fame, and two players who were perennial All-Stars, every starter for the Lakers with the exception of Dwight Howard is well past his prime. Steve Nash was old when he won his two NBA MVP’s, and the succeeding season marked his best season as a pro. But, now he stands three years removed from those seasons, and his play is beginning to reflect his age. Kobe Bryant still shows flashes of the NBA superstar and MVP that he once was, however he can not carry the Lakers as he has been able to do in years past. He has lost a step and does not score as easily a he had in the past, though his points per game are essentially the same. Kobe relies on contested jump shots too often now because he can not blow by defenders with his crossover and first step or elevate over them. The best scoring option on the team is an unpolished athlete, Dwight Howard, who is entering his best years and was a perennial MVP candidate before he got to LA. But, he languishes to score when pushed out of position, and he The All-Star power forward Pau Gasol has yet to find a defined role in the D’Antoni system, though Steve Nash’s return has given him a few easier buckets. And, former Defensive Player of the Year, Ron Artest is past his prime too. He is five years past his best basketball. The Lakers boast great names in their starting lineup, yet they lack the firepower that those names once possessed.
The age of the Lakers puts them at a deficit in athleticism. Most teams are more explosive than the elderly Lakers simply because they are younger. The average age of the Lakers is 28.9 years, good for the fourth oldest team in the league, and the Lakers only play a steady rotation of about seven players. The average age of the starters, who dominate the minutes, is 32.2 years. Los Angeles is cooking with a recipe for disaster. In addition to the disparity that Los Angeles has with the physical ability of their opponents, their age also exposes them to injuries. Nash has missed half of the games this season with injuries, Gasol has seen limited minutes in multiple games, and the even Dwight Howard – who is an old 27 year old with 8 years experience under his belt – has missed games with a back injury. The Lakers’ age will be a huge detriment to their title hopes.
But, D’Antoni himself could sink the Lakers ship. He is in essence, the same coach as Mike Brown with a different focus. Brown taught defensive strategies that the Lakers could not execute because they were outmatched physically, and the Lakers may not win with D’Antoni because they can not incorporate his offense against better opponents. His system needs a dynamic point guard and shooters to be most effective. And, though D’Antoni had his most successful seasons with Nash running his offense, the Los Angeles talent group has very different strengths. To win a championship, D’Antoni will have to get the ball to Dwight Howard in a position where he can score. Howard is key to the offense. But, he also has to find a way to isolate Nash so that he can make the right decisions at the top of the key, he has to get Kobe easier shots on the wing with a slower Nash, he has to utilize Pau effectively, and he has to keep Artest focused on basketball. It may all be too large a task.
2013 will not be a banner year for the Los Angeles Lakers. They have stumbled out of the gates with one of their worst records in a decade, and are showing none of the signs of dominance that a championship team usually displays. They are old, slow, and their coach is not enough of a strategist to hide their glaring flaws. The Lakers will not win a NBA title in 2013.