Despite playing with 8 new guys and without Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks looked like a well tuned, very coordinated team. The Los Angeles Lakers, with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol welcoming Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, looked anything but smart and together.
A home loss to open the season isn’t new. This is what happened last year, when the Chicago Bulls came to town. The expectation were different, the scenario was very different. Kobe Bryant isn’t supposed to be taking 20-25 shots a game anymore. He had one of his more efficient and reserved shooting nights in recent years, finishing with 22 points, 11-14 from the field. No three point attempts, only 1 rebound and 1 assist. Like Bryant was saving every bit of energy he had for shooting. He said he was going to be much more of a classic shooting guard this season.
But maybe that was the Lakers needed, because it’s going to take a while before this team runs its new motion offense smoothly. Their point guard, the guy who should be making this all click and come together is more of a pick n’ roll guy, and he had a lot of trouble adjusting to the new plan by Mike Brown. The Lakers weren’t exactly a sight to behold last season as well. This season, with the added weapons, eventually, it should look better.
For now, it looks like a work in progress. Bryant did nothing but shoot (and well), while Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard had a lot of trouble with a very physical, mobile and deep Mavs front line. Elton Brand, Brandan Wright, Shawn Marion and Eddy Curry played smart and tough basketball, catching the Lakers’ big man off guard more than once on defense. Dwight Howard is rusty, and did score 19 points to go along with his boards, but he was awful (3-14) from the line and fouled out. His timing, like everyone else on this Lakers team, needs and probably will be better in the future.
And then there’s the bench. The names that came in during the off-season supposedly made it better. Both Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks were barely a factor in the game. Steve Blake had some nice minutes, finishing with 6 assists. Jordan Hill? His time with Dwight Howard on the floor together looked like the worst period the Lakers had in the game, and playing the two true centers together doesn’t look like something to be used plentifully in the future. Pau Gasol was the only one to finish with a +3 on the team.
Despite the preseason and despite a home loss to start the regular season, there’s no need to even remotely be worried. This isn’t a 66 game campaign. It’s about 82 games and building something as they go along. There’s too much talent on this team to let age and still not coming together stop them from being a dominant force in the West. These early glitches had to be taken into calculations when this team was being built, and the way it struggled in the preseason games.
For now – Just not to worry. Just keep on working on what needs to be fixed: The tandem of Gasol and Howard on defense, making Steve Nash feel more comfortable on offense. Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard; they’ll get their points. It’s about getting more people involved in a non-forced way. Against Portland, on the road, we’ll see if anything was picked up from the opening loss.