The NBA season is less than 2 weeks away. The Lakers reloaded after losing Dwight Howard and I am slightly weary thinking/writing about how I expect this season to go. The question mark is Kobe, for the first time in his career. Kobe aims to play from day one and recently said that if he had to (in a big situation like the playoffs or NBA Finals) he could play right now. Even if he does return from the jump how he recovers his game after a devastating injury remains to be seen. A lot of guys are never the same after an Achilles tear. One example in Kobe's favor is Dominique Wilkins who had a number of good seasons after he tore his Achilles. Last season Kobe was one of the best offensive players in the league and a below average defensive player. If he can match that this year it'd be amazing. But I think you have to factor in the Achilles AND his age. Kobe's 35 and there just isn't a whole lot of players who can play at that high a level at that age after that injury. I still expect Kobe to come close. I expect Pau to have a much better year than last year and possibly his best since 2011. Pau is 33 and plays a position and style that should allow him to age gracefully. He also doesn't have to share the center position with any one. It should be a nice season for Pau individually. Pau has been shitted on the past three years and I can't wait to see him play well again. Personally I'd like to see Pau stare down D'Antoni after every dunk or big play he makes to remind D'Antoni and his mustache that Pau (or Andrew) hasn't forgotten about being benched last year. Steve's case is tricker. He's old and he really wasn't that good last year. He couldn't get by ppl really. But he can still shoot and pass and he has to be better now that he's healthy. Nash is in decline and no one should expect a throw back performance but he should still be good and fun to watch.
Now there's the Lakers supporting cast which has been unfairly knocked recently. Seriously, this is kind of a better supporting cast then they've had in a while. Kind of. The fact that they don't have Metta world peace and Matt Barnes hurts. Those guys were solid rotation guys. Nick young on paper looks like a solid replacement and he kind of is but he also kinda sucks. Chris Kaman on the other hand is relatively solid. So is a healthily Jordan Hill. Jordan Farmar is nice Lakers story and if he plays like he did for the Nets a good pick up. Steve Blake is a fine 3rd point guard. I guess they have better back ups for Kobe this year because they actually have back ups for Kobe this year. Last year and the year before the Lakers played a whole lot of guys who shouldn't have been in the league and that probably won't be the case this year. Their supporting cast isn't good but it's improved.
There's nothing that will compensate for Dwight's departure though. The Lakers won't contend for a title and some think they won't even contend for the playoffs. I disagree and think its possible the Lakers win over 45 games and maybe 50(it's kind of a reach). They might win 40 or less tho. I'm not sure Kobe can carry a team anymore even when healthy. He just doesn't impact the game the same way a Lebron or Kevin Durant does. They would need Kobe, Gasol and Nash to play at all star levels and their supporting cast to maximize their talent. The Lakers don't have the personnel or the coaching (fuck D'Antoni) to make me believe they will be a good defensive team. Maybe they'll be average tho and score a lot. That's the best we can hope for, Slight dignity.
I wrote this before I read SI's article on Kobe. Here's the link: SI KOBE
Its an good read and reminder of why I watch the Lakers even in seasons like this upcoming one. Kobe is always interesting and there are always improvements and tests for each team/player. I'm pulling for Pau Gasol pretty hard too.