Los Angeles Lakers – Not Used to Being the Underdogs

Gasol, Nash

It might not be so bad after all. Expectations are far lower than they were last season from the Los Angeles Lakers, which might lead to a reverse kind of season, as Kobe Bryant won’t be expected to do everything coming off an injury, while Pau Gasol and Steve Nash feel like they have a lot to prove, just without the burden of being talked about as title or even playoff contenders.

The Lakers did what they could with the limited cap space they had heading into the offseason, and having Dwight Howard pass on the opportunity to play for them again. Nick Young and Wesley Johnson were signed to provide some athleticism on the wing, and hopefully make their perimeter defense look a lot better than it did last season.

Chris Kaman was signed using the Mid-Level Exception, giving the Lakers a proven big man next to Pau Gasol who should have no problem getting on the scoreboard, yet not be too much of a distraction like Howard was last season, on and off the court.

There’s also Jordan Farmer added to improve the point guard position from the bench. Nash is going to need plenty of cover, and while Farmar doesn’t provide too much of an upgrade to Steve Blake, it does mean Blake can work off the ball more than in last season, which usually means better things from a player who just wasn’t born to be a traditional kind of point guard.

Bryant, Nash

Despite all the pieces around, the Lakers will rise & fall on their remaining core three, which aren’t good enough collectively to be called “big three.” Bryant will comeback from his injury before the season begins according to all indications. How good will he be? Everyone seems pretty sure Bryant, by the sheer will power and his personality alone isn’t going to let the Lakers have a disaster of a season. The fact that everyone will be betting against them might be enough to push him to new heights for such an “old man.”

Bryant will do fine. Maybe not a 27-point kind of player like he was last season, but he should still be dominant on offense. But what about Gasol and Nash? Even bigger questions than before, with the health issue being the most important factor to weigh in. Gasol suffered from tendinitis last season, yet he did have “vintage Pau” kind of games later on in the season, when Howard or Bryant where off the court. Whatever his role will be next season, another year of being an outside shooter under Mike D’Antoni isn’t going to look too pleasing on the eyes.

Nash is the guy who runs it all, sorta. He acknowledged more than once that when you play with Bryant, you realize things change. The ball is in Kobe’s hands more than in his, and he suddenly becomes somewhat of a spot-up shooter. Last season the Lakers didn’t have the shooters and spacing to carry out the D’Antoni gameplan, on offense at least. This year? Things should be slightly better.

Maybe the no-expectation thing will be the biggest part of a season that’s much better than most of the predictions give the Lakers at the moment. Flying under the radar, and not having to apologize and dive into explanations after every loss will be a blessed change. It’s not going to win the Lakers a championship, but it’ll help sweeten the taste in their mouths once the season is over, when compared with what happened only a few months ago.

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