Dwight Howard is going to miss training camp for sure, which we already kind of knew. How much can that affect the Laker’s season depends on the amount of time Dwight misses and how he bounces back from his injury. The Lakers are being hyped as the team to beat next season so Dwight will have plenty of pressure on him. The more time Dwight misses the heavier the load his teammates, particularly Pau Gasol will have to carry. Two years ago Andrew Bynum missed the start of the 2010-11 season and Pau had to play big minutes early on. Pau responded well playing like an MVP candidate early on but by the 2011 playoffs he was exhausted. Pau is two years older now, and he’s the young compared to Steve Nash and Kobe so The Lakers need to limit their minutes as much as possible. But the Lakers supporting cast isn’t much improved form last season when they were among the worst in the league, so Mike Brown may have a conundrum early on. Last year he ran Kobe, Pau, and the now departed Andrew Bynum into the ground. He can’t afford to do that again and expect these guys to hold up down the stretch. So expecting the Lakers to look like a championship caliber team from day one might be wishful thinking for Laker fans.
The good news is that Dwight missing some games isn’t THAT big of deal in the long run as long as he plays up to his usual standards when he returns. Plenty of NBA championship teams have dealt with injuries to their best players. Last year the Miami Heat dealt with injuries to their second and third best players Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. They weathered the storm and when it truly mattered in the NBA Finals Wade and Bosh gutted it out and gave the Heat close to what they’d have given if completely healthy. The 2011 Dallas Mavericks also dealt with injures to their best player Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk missed 9 games mid-season and Dallas struggled without him and when he first came back from injury. But when Dirk played at his best the Mavs were among the best team in the league and proved it during the postseason. The 2009-10 Lakers dealt with three separate injuries from Pau, Kobe and Bynum. Kobe was so banged up at the end of the regular season that I wondered if his game was finally regressing. Halfway through the first round Kobe healed up and became Kobe again and the Lakers went on to win a second straight championship.
Of course it may be tougher on the Lakers due to their age, their lack of depth, and the fact that this team is completely new. The conventional wisdom is that championships teams are make through heart-breaking post-season losses and don’t come together in one season. The 2008 Boston Celtics are a recent exception but their best players were all veterans with individual heartbreak. They also were all healthy through out the regular season in which they dominated. But many teams do make other changes in order to put themselves over the top. The Dallas Mavericks in 2011 were way different than the Mavs who blew the 2006 Finals. The only holdovers were Dirk and Jason Terry. Tim Duncan’s championship Spurs teams were also radically different over the years. Early on the Spurs relied on the Tim and David Robinson combination, which changed to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Even the Shaq-Kobe Laker teams were different every year. The Lakers still have Kobe and Pau to hold them down early on but they will need a big dose of Dwight to become champs again.