Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Optimistic? These Are Your 2013-14 Lakers (NBA Preview)

You can try the best you can
If you try the best you can
The best you can is good enough.....

Well here we are. Another NBA season. As happy as I am for various reasons (Return of D-Rose, Miami’s 3-peat bid, Dwight Howard in H-Town - yes, I want to see him do well), I’m also staring dead at a Lakers team with the lowest expectations I’ve seen in 10 years.

Steve Nash is pushing 40. Pau Gasol is still at a high level but hurting. And of course, Kobe Bryant won’t be starting the season opener for the first time in ages. And this is what the starting lineup looks like tonight.

Yeah, this is what they are. A decent lineup that doesn't strike much fear. It’s a reminder that this team has to prove what they are. Not just to the doubters but to the fans who want to know what the Mad Doctor Mike D’Antoni will cook up. Year 2 of his tenure scares me because he’s still the coach and unless he magically decides to commit to defense, everything’s a tossup.

That’s why I feel like Radiohead’s Kid A. Coming to a new world that looks familiar but is radically different and unpredictable. Yet, I’m trying to stay optimistic with Thom Yorke’s sad, bleak voice encouraging me.

For the first time in a while, the Lakers have guys who can create their own shot and are athletic. Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmar and Nick Young can bring some excitement when they’re on the court and if the Lakers want to run a bit, they have guys who won’t burnout.

I know Jordan Hill brings excitement off the bench with his hustle/rebounding but I guess we’ll see what Shawne Williams - who I’ve barely heard from since Memphis - does. Same with Wesley Johnson, who’s been unremarkable since he was drafted.

The pairing of Young/Farmar might not excite outsiders but from a city perspective, it’s huge. Nick and Jordan grew up out here and played in the San Fernando Valley (Cleveland and Taft HS) together before going to USC and UCLA. These are guys who understand the Laker tradition and will bring fans to the games because it’s been a while since the team had homegrown talent on there.

Farmar left because he wanted to shine. He wanted the money and playing time, which is understandable. But now that he tasted it, he understood what it meant to come back home. He sacrificed money to wear the purple and gold and I salute him. While I love Steve Blake, Farmar gives the Lakers athleticism and another shot maker, especially with Nash’s health causing him to miss some games.

As for Nash/Gasol, whatever they can bring at this point is appreciated. Gasol’s the No. 1 option on offense at this point and unfortunately, it could backfire because the Mad Doctor doesn’t know how to keep him in the post. Gasol can be a stretch-4 but he’s also a great low-post player. Here’s hoping and wishing Antoni realizes what he has and doesn’t misuse the one player he needs to lean on the most until Kobe returns.

Ah yes, the Black Mamba. The biggest what if. This season will change depending on when he comes back. As my man Ed the Sports Fan said, we have no idea what he’ll look like. Year 18 of Kobe Bryant could either see him have to continue playing point-forward while he gets his legs or see some sort of miraculous recovery.

I envision the first option. Kobe knows how successful that was and he knows that this team has guys who can score and take some burden off him. He also knows he can’t gun it because that Achilles can’t handle the same pressure. But I also think this time off will encourage guys to find their shot because when he returns, they’re going to have to continue even as they defer to Kobe.

We’ll probably know for sure in December or January when he’s supposed to return. I just don’t want him to run back because I’d rather have him better in the 2nd half than a shadow of himself in the 1st looking like Robert Griffin III trying to regain his footing. Father Time is undefeated so it's better to fight him at full strength.

Overall, I just don’t know what to expect from a team I don’t expect much from. This could be 2004-2005 all over again (the last year the Lakers missed the playoffs) or it could be 05-06, 06-07 or last year when they made the playoffs but got booted out. All I hope for is that they’re competitive and that Antoni can stay out of his own way enough to let his assistants instill enough defensive attitude.

It’s a bleak outlook but I saw this coming two years ago. At least the Lakers are younger than last year and so the question is if the youth movement (along with Chris Kaman) is enough to offset the hobbled veterans? That’s why my optimism is more Radiohead than Sounds of Blackness.

If you try the best you can
If you try the best you can
The best you can is good enough

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