One down 81 to go

The hype for the new look revamped Lakers was more anticipated than Godzilla hitting the streets of Japan. The Lakers have tons of pressure to not only make the 2013 NBA Finals but to win it. That is what happens when you sign Steve Nash and trade for Dwight Howard. Not only did the Lakers make a splash in the off-season with its new superstar acquisitions but they emptied out the whole Pacific Ocean. The Lakers now have the highest payroll in the NBA with 100 million and expectations are through the roof for this team.

Last night however the Lakers that we thought we would see did not show up. For the first 2 quarters we saw glimpses of the at times dominant high flying OOP universe Lakers, but that was merely a shadow. Am I saying that Lakers fans should already hit the panic button and jump ship? Hell no! I still believe that the Lakers are the most talented team and even the deepest team in the NBA. However there are many things that did concern me about the Lakers opening day lost to the Dirkless Mavs, led by the ancient Vince Carter, Elton Brand, and Shawn Marion (aka the 2006 allstar team).

The areas the Lakers need to tighten up and real quick are free throw shooting, defense, offensive tempo, Princeton offense, and running in transition. The Lakers were abysmal from the free throw line last night at 12-31 for 38%. 12 of 31 is completely unacceptable, it is called a free throw because that’s exactly what it is a FREE throw. This mostly has to do with Dwight Howard who was 3-14 from the line or 21%. The last Laker to shoot a lower free throw percentage (with a minimum of 10 attempts) was Shaq who in 2004 who went 2-13 for 15%. Jordan Hill was also horrendous from the free throw line at 1-6 for 16%. If Dwight Howard alone makes at least 75% of his free throws or better the Lakers win their home opener. I think that with proper coaching Dwight Howard’s free throw percentage will go up but we just have to be patient as fans. The focus for Dwight in practice should be 2-3 hours of repetitive free throw shooting. Once you practice something so long eventually you master it and it will become second nature to him. The reason why Dwight will improve his free throw shooting and not be the next Shaq all comes down to his release. Shaq had no follow through on his shot, he essentially pushed the ball like he was shot-putting a peach into the basket. I don’t think that was Dr Naismith’s original intent for the game of basketball by the way. If Dwight can improve his free throw percent to a mere 75% the Lakers will have a much easier time holding leads and closing out games because than you can’t hack a Dwight. So far it looks like Superman has found his kryptonite and that is Free throw shooting.

What is Mike Brown thinking with this so called Princeton Offense? I could coach this team to a perfect season with all that talent he has been given. Forget the Princeton offense and reacting to what the defense gives you and making your offensive reads off that. Instead keep it simple and run the pick and roll with Nash to Gasol and Howard. The Lakers have the best passing point guard in the game but yet he is limited to coming off ball screens and not handling the ball. I am baffled how Mike Brown thinks that Pau Gasol should run point forward and not Steve Nash. The Lakers should not be running a read and react offense but they should be running an attack pick and roll offense. When the Black Mamba Kobe Bryant is on your team you must know that you always need to attack. Attack the front of the rim and get easy oops and run on the fastbreak with Nash to Howard. I hope by June I am apologizing vehemently to Mike Brown regarding this Princeton offense but for now I think the Lakers should push the offensive tempo and get out on the run and use pick and roll often. For gosh sake even resurrect the Triangle at least Kobe, Metta, and Gasol know how to run that!

The biggest knock I have from last night’s game was the defense or lack of it. There was no ball pressure, no defensive tenacity at all. The Lakers seemed disinterested on that side of the ball and more concerned with trying to know where to be in the new Princeton offense. Defense leads to turnovers and fastbreaks. Mike Brown is acclaimed for being a defensive guru but he clearly hasn’t lived up to his acclaimed title. Last night the Lakers gave up 99 points to a Dirkless Mavs team who had 3 vintage stars in the Protozoa era. It is on the coach to mentally prepare the players to play and sustain defensive pressure and intensity for 48 minutes. Last year the Lakers gave up 95.9 ppg. That definitely does not sound like a defensive genius to me. The Lakers need to honker down on Defense and make sure they are protecting the rim, causing turnovers, and contesting jump shots. There was way too many easy layups and dunks that were just from a lack of defensive effort. Also the pick and roll defense was nonexistent as the Lakers need to do a better job of switching and covering the open man after the screen.

Do I still believe in my Lakers? Yes of course. This new Lakers squad has just been assembled and it will take awhile to gel. They are working out there kinks and it might take a while before there is complete chemistry happening. As Metta said “chemistry is a bad word because it blows things up, I like to use love or togetherness.” The only thing that matters is that the Lakers are clicking and firing on all cylinders in June. The postseason is when the real season begins, but that doesn’t mean you don’t try to perfect your craft in the regular season. Dwight also chimed in “just because we have a talented team it’s just not gonna click. It takes time. Just gotta continue to stay focused.”

The biggest focus for the Lakers is to improve on free throw shooting, make that a priority for Dwight and the bigs; also pick and roll frequently with Nash and the Towers, and to play with defensive intensity and create turnovers forcing bad shots, blocks and getting steals in the open court.

“We have 81 more games to play and Rome wasn’t built in a day. That’s what somebody told me.” –Superman

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Superman Returns! (D12 in LA)

The biggest anticipation of the whole 2012 season and summer offseason was where would Dwight Howard end up. Would D12 stay in Orlando, go to the Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, or the Los Angeles Lakers. Anticipation soon turned to frustration as the Dwightmare saga continued for over a year span. One day he would say he wants to stay in Orlando then the next day he would demand a trade. It was like Brett Favre’s retirement all over again. After months of trade rumors and the Lakers even considering offering Andrew Bynum an extension, I truly had given up on the prospects of gaining Dwight and believed that Bynum would be the future Center for the Lakers. Then splash the waters of the Red Sea had finally parted. On August 11th it was announced that the Los Angeles Lakers had acquired the Man of Steel Superman Dwight Howard in a 4 team trade with the Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, and Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers received Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon, and Earl Clark from Orlando, Philadelphia got Andrew Bynum from the Lakers and Jason Richardson from Orlando, Denver received Andre Iguodola, and the Magic received Aaron Afflalo and Al Harrington from Denver along with Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga from the Lakers, and from the Sixers Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic. Orlando has received future picks in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017. Many have said that Orlando got the short stick on this trade but I definitely disagree they were able to shed salary while get draft picks and young players to build for the future. The Magic are using the Sam Presti model in OKC by building for the future in the draft. In fact if Dwight Howard didn’t opt into his contract last season with Orlando they would have received nothing in return and lost him in free agency. I feel every team won in this trade and it is a fair trade on all sides. Everybody got what they wanted. The Lakers got that big man and defensive presence, the Sixers got a big scoring center, Denver got an All-star athletic wing, and Orlando got young, relieved salary cap and future draft picks. We are just fortunate that David Stern kept his nose out of vetoing this trade (CP3 hiding in the corner).

It is sad to see Andrew Bynum leave the Lakers. He was just coming off his first Allstar season and was the number 2 option in the Lakers offense.  He posted 18pg and 11pg with almost 2 bpg. He was a force in the paint, when he WANTED to be. That is the key phrase that Andrew Bynum has the Randy Moss syndrome “He plays when he wants to play.” I have always been a huge fan of Andrew Bynum and believe he has great potential but the fact that he would literally take himself out of the play if he didn’t receive his first touch was just upsetting to watch. I know that he is a young 24 year old kid and has much to learn and grow because I am a month older than he is, and let me tell you immaturity and learning how to control emotions is something that is a process that everyone even myself goes through. Dwight Howard as well is not mature as we have seen his flip flopping trade demands and removals this season so they both even out in that category. But when the Lakers were able to land Dwight Howard I was ecstatic.

Here is why Superman has entered the building ala Staples Center. Dwight Howard is an absolute force on the defensive side as well as catching the ball under the rim. He is literally the reincarnation of Shaquille Oneal. The reason why I like the Dwight Howard trade is because Superman brings it on D every night. Dwight Howard has already been 3 time Defensive Player of the Year and he is only 26. Howard has also been to 6 All-Star games and reached the Finals in 2009 losing to the Los Angeles Lakers. So Howard knows what it is like to reach the big stage. Howard needs LA just as much as the Lakers need him. LA will repair Howard’s image and make him an even bigger star and Howard in return will help Kobe along with Nash and Gasol bring home a title to Hollywood. Another giant reason why Dwight fits the Lakers is because of the acquisition of Steve Nash on July 4th. Nash now has a set of keys to his new toys. Nash will be able to run the pick in roll to perfection with Gasol and Dwight and there will now be a new “lob city” in LA and the Lakers own the rights to the airspace. D12 will see a lot of alley oops; lob passes, tip-ins and offensive rebounds. Dwight is a player who plays off the ball more than Bynum would. Howard is one of the best offensive rebounders in the game and he will have many opportunities to get easy baskets from boarding the glass and tip-ins. In Los Angeles Dwight will no longer be option 1 like he was in Orlando so there is a lot of ease and no pressure on him now. All Dwight has to do is play Defense, rebound the basketball and get easy dunks. It is the perfect scenario for Dwight he will be on a championship caliber team and the pressure is off him to score 25 and get 20 rebounds. Also adding Dwight Howard he has the chance to follow in the line of great Hall of Fame Centers from George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Shaq.

Shaq like Dwight was the first pick in the draft from Orlando and then moved to the Lakers. Shaq and Dwight both reached the Finals in Orlando and lost, both nicknamed Superman, both Dominant bigs, both gregarious personalities, and both wanting the chance to win rings. Well Shaq was able to win 3 titles in LA, and Dwight is looking to do the same.

Superman returns to LA and this time he has all the necessary pieces to ensure that the Larry Obrien Trophy returns to Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant is still one of the greatest players and scorers the NBA has ever seen, along with adding Nash who is the best passing point guard in the NBA, and Pau Gasol who is an athletic skilled 7 foot big man who can extend the floor. To add Dwight Howard arguably the best center in the NBA who is a force in the middle and a defensive block shot beast is almost incredulous to think about and literally makes the Lakers an unstoppable force and favorites to win the NBA Finals. Not to mention the Lakers still have Metta Ron Artest Peace who is still one of the best lock down defenders in the league with an improved bench of sharpshooter Jodie Meeks, backup point guard Chris Duhon, and resigning Jordan Hill and Devin Ebanks. The Lakers look to be very lethal and deadly just like the Black Mamba himself Kobe Bryant. If there was ever a statement that Kobe wanted to dethrone the Miami Heat and reclaim his glory as NBA champion it was acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. The Lakers have just taken the king out and said Checkmate game over. “Yall playing checkers, while we playing chess” –Kobe Bryant. That is why Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak are the best front office in all of sports, it’s because they are not afraid to make the big-time moves.

Kobe Bryant welcomes the return of Superman as he goes for his last hurrah as a world champion. This is the most talented team that has been assembled. I don’t believe that chemistry will be an issue because Nash, Kobe, and Gasol are all veterans and know how to win. Nash is hungry for his first title and Kobe is hungry to get his 6th. There could not be a better scenario for the Lakers than the upcoming 2013 season. Landing D12 to LA has made me giddy and brings the most anticipation for any season since the 2010 Lakers championship. Lakers fans are now rejuvenated and like Dwight said about his coming to the Lakers “excited.” Dwight is excited to put on the purple and gold and so are the fans. Not to knock Bynum but when you are not excited to be a Laker any longer and tell the world you could play anywhere well that means your time in LA is up buddy. Unfortunately we had to say good bye to a big-time presence but fortunately we get to say Hello to a larger than life Superman. The Lakers now have another chance to build a dynasty. They could possibly win not 1, not 2, not 3, well you know how the rest goes. Dwight has the keys to the franchise after Kobe retires and now can compete to win many championships here in LA. The Lakers don’t rebuild they reload.