The 2013-2014 NBA season was a nightmare for the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans.
Los Angeles had the worst record ever (27-55) in the team’s storied 66-year history, which dates all the way back to when the team was in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
But, the team was seemingly cursed with injuries again for the second straight season. Kobe Bryant played in just six games, Steve Nash played in just 15 games, Steve Blake played in just 27 games before being traded, Chris Kaman played in 39 games, Jordan Farmar played in just 41 games and Xavier Henry played in just 43 games. It was so bad at one point at Henry was starting at PG and he’s a natural SG/SF.
Follwing up on last seasons injury disaster, Steve Nash was ruled out for the season with a nagging back injury and the team applied for a disabled player exception of 4.85 million, a valuable thing in todays NBA salary cap management environment.
Nash won’t be criticized by one of the most important people in the Lakers organization.
“You can control what you can control,” Kobe Bryant told ESPN before the Lakers’ final preseason game, a 93-92 loss to the Sacramento Kings last Friday. “He did everything to get back and play at a high level. From that standpoint he should be able to sleep at night. I know I would. I can only think about that in my situation; I just tried to do everything possible to be ready, and if it wasn’t in the cards, if I couldn’t get back to being at that level, you just have to accept it and when you lay your head down you know that you did absolutely everything possible.”
Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, and Ed Davis were the main free agent signings over the summer. Quite a letdown when you consider they were wining and dining Carmelo Anthony and had some interest in the premier free agent of the summer, LeBron James. However, when you look a little closer….they didn’t make out that bad.
Lin, 26, is a versatile player and he should be able to co-exist with Kobe, 36, in the same backcourt (always something that has to be considered). Despite what people think, Lin is an upgrade over Kendall Marshall in and a hobbled Nash (the main starters at PG last season).
Lin doesn’t have to duplicate his Lin-sanity days when he took the NBA storm in New York, but if he could? It certainly wouldn’t hurt. Lin just needs to be able to take some pressure off an aging Kobe and run the offense. Lin and Kobe will most likely take turns getting the team into their flow on offense. Lin showed an ability to play off the ball during his time in New York when Melo was dominating the ball. And Lin improved his 3-point shooting to 35.8% last season so he can help stretch the defense with his ability to hit the outside shot.
Boozer, 32, was acquired for a paltry 3.25 million when the Bulls Amnestied him and he should allow the team to bring rookie Julius Randle along slowly and not have to start him immediately. Boozer, 32, is still capable of putting up 15 points and 8 rebounds per game and that is all they need out of him. He won’t make anybody totally forget Pau Gasol, but he’s not a major downgrade at all. Boozer and Randle should give them a nice 1-2 punch at PF. When they want to go with a lineup that can shoot the deep ball, Ryan Kelly, 23, will enter the game as a stretch four. Kelly averaged 8ppg and made 33.8% of his 3-pointers as a rookie.
Davis, 25, was a late signing, but he was acquired cheaply and should provide a nice defensive backup to starter Jordan Hill. Robert Sacre was baptized in his rookie season due to injuries and he showed some potential, but Davis gives them a better defender and rebounder. And he showed some offense in the pre-season with a couple good games.
The Lakers may have an heir apparent to Kobe in their second draft pick Jordan Clarkson who surprisingly slipped out of the first round. But, in the preseason he showed a tendency to chuck up shots. He wasn’t overly impressive but the Lakers are loaded with talent at the swingman position.
Nick Young aka Swaggy P, 29, was a revelation last season (career-high 17.9ppg and 38.6% on 3-pointers) and he’ll most likely start at small forward. We’ll see how Kobe and Swaggy get along fighting over the ball to be the man to take a big shot in a close game.
Henry, 23, and Wesley Johnson, 27, brought back after showing some flashes last season and they’ll both be competing for minutes at SF behind Young. Henry needs to stay healthy and Johnson’s playing time will be dictated by his defensive play.
Despite the lack of a major superstar addition, this team added some solid second tier talent and when you have an egotistical superstar like Kobe….sometimes that’s the best thing to do. Add some players that will relent to the franchise player. The outlook on the season is going to depend a lot on how healthy Bryant will be. If he’s healthy AND close to being the old Kobe….they could be a borderline playoff team. If he isn’t, they could be slightly better than last season, which is bad news for the Lakers and their fans.
I think they’ll win 35-38 games and be around 10th in the Western Conference, another rough season for management and fans that are used to so much more. But, the front office kept salary cap flexibility for next summer when an even deeper class of free agents come onto the open market.
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