With the start of the 2013-14 NBA season rapidly approaching, we thought it only fair to share what makes each team so exciting. Ontologically speaking, all 30 teams deserve our eyeballs this season. Even disastrous lineups still present oodles of plays, personalities, highlights and headaches. Here are five things to keep in mind for each team before flipping the channel.
Today we talk about the Los Angeles Lakers: a team in flux.
[5 Reasons To Watch: Kings, Lakers, Knicks, 76ers, Bobcats, Cavs, Magic, Warriors, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers, Clippers, Rockets, Bulls, Pistons, Bucks, Nets, Pacers, Wizards, Thunder, Heat, Mavericks, Celtics, Raptors Hawks, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Suns, Jazz]
The Los Angeles Lakers are entering the 2013-14 season in foreign territory. Unlike this time last year, the Lakers are not considered title contenders, let alone favorites to dethrone the 2-time defending champion Miami Heat. In fact, most analysts believe the Lakers won’t make the playoffs, and could easily wind up as a lottery team by the end of the regular season.
With all that said, there is still a massive amount of interest in the most successful franchise in NBA history. They are even scheduled for more appearances on nationally televised games than LeBron James and Co. in South Beach.
So, what makes a team with perhaps the lowest expectations in two decades so intriguing? Let’s take a look at the top five things to watch out for on League Pass [Ed. note: or on national TV ALL THE TIME] this season for the Lake Show.
*** *** ***
Team Chemistry, Fun, & Kung Fu Dancing
One of the most improved aspects of this season’s Lakers is expected to be stronger team chemistry. In fact, players like Steve Nash have already commented on the rapport of the team as a unit. If you have watched the Lakers in their three preseason games so far, you can already see a difference. The bench is more engaged, there is actual communication on the court, and there is a feeling that the team is having fun.
One of the entertaining aspects for the fans to watch at home is the interesting celebrations for just about every shot from NBA sophomore, Robert Sacre. Sacre may not get much playing time on the hardwood, but his team spirit in the form of a karate-like dance is contagious and makes the fans and viewers smile.
Nick Young’s Swag
Arguably the best Lakers’ offseason signing was 28-year-old Nick Young. The Los Angeles native is thrilled at the opportunity to return home and fulfill a lifelong dream of playing for his favorite team.
Young is an offensive-minded player who can create his own shot. This was needed by the Lakers, as most often Kobe Bryant was the only player in purple and gold on the floor to do this last season. His offensive mentality will be necessary especially if Bryant misses time during the regular season.
Nick “Swaggy P” Young can rack up points very quickly, which is going to be fun for fans to watch. For example, Young posted 17 points in only 19 minutes of action in his debut as a Laker in the team’s first preseason game against the Warriors.
Two of those points came from a nice crossover dribble to fake out Harrison Barnes, which resulted in a smooth step-back jumper. These types of shots and his trademark swag will have people tuning in.
Steve Nash Dimes
When Steve Nash was acquired by the Lakers over the Fourth of July weekend last year, the team’s odds for making the Finals immediately skyrocketed. Fast-forward to the second game of the 2012-13 season, when Nash broke his fibula and â€” despite valiant attempts to get back to his All-Star form â€” wasn’t the same.
Nash’s health remains a big concern for the Lakers, as soon-to-be 40-year-old (he turns 40 in February) bodies are more susceptible to injury and take longer to recover when they inevitably do break down. His minutes will likely be managed to prevent strain and to limit normal wear-and-tear, but a more effective season is anticipated from the 2-time MVP.
Nash will be able to run more of the traditional Mike D’Antoni offense, as personnel was brought in to fit the system. The Lakers will be faster, where Nash excels at navigating and directing traffic on the floor to find the best shot. Many anticipate an efficient two-man game with Pau Gasol this season, as their skills mesh well together; they can easily become a headache for opposing defenders if given enough court time together sans injury.
Nash’s two-man game with the guards will also be interesting to watch, especially when Kobe Bryant returns from surgery to repair his torn Achilles. The more time they spend on the floor together, the better their cohesiveness, and with their veteran experience, it shouldn’t take as long as it would with their younger players.
After a disappointing average of 6.7 APG last season, look out for the return of Nash to dishing out flashy dimes more consistently, like this one to Steve Blake during the Lakers’ second preseason game against the Denver Nuggets.
The Many Faces of Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol is coming off his worst season, where his PPG (13.7) and his shooting percentage (46.6) last season were career lows. With Dwight Howard in Houston, Gasol is returning to his “natural position,” or at least his more comfortable one, as the Lakers’ starting center.
The offense in the low post will once again run through the Spaniard, who helped lead the Lakers to back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. Additionally, Gasol is entering the season with a clean bill of health, after undergoing the FAST procedure on both knees during the offseason.
Gasol is considered the most skilled big man in the NBA; his high basketball IQ and court awareness allows a versatility not seen in most 7-footers. Gasol is a man who wears many hats on the court and has many faces, literally (as shown below). The Lakers’ performance this season will hinge on the impact of Pau Gasol’s return to the hardwood.
The Return of Kobe Bryant
This is an obvious choice. Kobe Bryant has captured the attention of the NBA and its fans for almost two decades. Whether you are a part of the “Mamba Army” or not, Kobe has elevated the game of basketball in multiple ways.
Bryant’s return date is not known, as yet, although it is clear that he has made tremendous progress in his recovery. However, Bryant is the biggest question mark for the Lakers and perhaps the entire NBA, as an Achilles injury is often regarded as a career-threatening, especially when you take into account the mileage accrued during his 17-year career.
When will Kobe return? What form will he return in? What adjustments will he make to his game if he’s not his usual self?
One thing is for sure: Kobe Bryant thrives on proving doubters wrong, and his journey to do so this season will have fans glued to the TV.
What do you think?
Follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @gobibs.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.