Los Angeles Lakers Are Still Work In Progress
The first trio of regular season NBA games brought unique story-lines and some early panic in Los Angeles. After losing its eight preseason games after the offseason additions of Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and a slew of new reserves, the Lakers fell 99-91 at home in its opener to the Dirk Nowitzki-less Dallas Mavericks.
The theories trying to explain the Lakers’ struggles are piling up, but it can be boiled down to three issues: chemistry issues, ball movement and Howard’s chronic and problematic issues at the free throw line. It’s perfectly understandable for the Lakers to not be cohesive as a team with two new stars and an evolving identity. Just remember how the Heat struggled in the early part of its first season with the “Voltron” trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
“It’s not an excuse, but it will all come with time,” Howard said after the game. “We haven’t had an opportunity to really play together as much as we want, but we’re going to get it…We’re going to chip away, and we’re going to get better.”
Did Nash not have the ball in his hands enough on Tuesday night, as Chris Mannix proposed? It’s going to be tough for that to happen without one of the team’s four All-Stars to make a significant concession, and plus/minus touted Pau Gasol (the least accomplished of the All-Star quartet) as LA’s best player against the Mavericks. Nash chalked it up to the team’s current lack of continuity.
“It’s growing pains, and it’s a struggle,” Nash said. “We’re out of sync, and we’re going to probably have some more moments in games like that.”
Were the Lakers over-complicating things, as Zach Lowe posited? It’s very possible. Sometimes when you have so many intriguing options as the Lakers do, the players and coaching staff loses focus. That clarity and continuity will come, and a supremely talented team like the Lakers will get through this transitional, feeling out phase and will be better for it.
What the Lakers may not be able to overcome is the Howard’s abysmal and atrocious free throw shooting. In an eight-point loss to Dallas, Howard missed 11 free throws. For those not counting at home, no other player in the game even took 11 free throws. Teams are going to foul Howard in every crunch time situation, because it’s certainly the best case scenario for a team in the fourth quarter whose other options include having the ball in the hands of Bryant or Nash.
“As you know, we have a lot of expectations this season,” Bryant said. “We’re trying to live up to the expectations. We’re trying to bring another championship back to where it belongs, back to Los Angeles.”
For that to happen, there’s still work to be done. But there’s still no reason to overreact to one regular season loss in an 82-game regular season that the Los Angeles Lakers are using as a tune-up to the playoffs.