You may have heard about the Los Angeles Lakers offseason, you know the one in which they nabbed Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to go along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. There’s no doubt the talent is there for an NBA championship, but basketball is a team game and teams don’t form overnight. Dwyane Wade, in an interview with Fox Sports Florida, expressed similar sentiments (via PBT):
“‘They’ll be great, but they have to make it work,’ Wade said with a tone that sounded something like a warning — perhaps because he’s speaking from experience. ‘Some people figure it out right away, some people take till mid-season to figure it out and some take until the next year if they figure it out. Obviously for them, they need to be successful as they want to be, they’re going to have to do it right away.’
It’s a run of the mill neutrality, seemingly honest analysis while saying little we didn’t already know. But we don’t know it either, that the Lakers will “have to make it work.” It’s easy and comfortable to fall into the trap of surmising that Kobe and Co. will make it work because they’re veterans and they understand basketball. But for the Lakers, it won’t just be about understanding or a willingness to sacrifice shots and minutes and touches. Really, it’s going to be about something they can’t control, which is developing a rhythm and an understanding of each other’s styles.
Who will be the primary ballhandler? Will every possession run though Kobe? Will Pau Gasol have to play out of the high post again, a place that severly limits his effectiveness? How will they stop perimeter scorers now that World Peace and Kobe have lost a step? What will end of game possessions look like? Will Kobe Bryant go one-on-one or will Steve Nash be allowed to create the best possible shot? These are all legitimate questions, and ones that the Lakers will have to figure out if they hope to have any success. It took Miami two seasons to put it all together, though their model proved that talent without chemistry can still take you far.
More problematic, though, is Mike Brown as the head coach. Now, it’s not that Brown isn’t a good coach (because he is), but he’s not a domineering personality. And on a team with multiple egos to soothe, you need someone who commands respect and attention. A coach with The Plan that players buy into. Brown doesn’t seem to be that type of guy, but I could be wrong.
This isn’t the first time Los Angeles has mashed together a bunch of great players (Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone, Gary Payton). That one almost worked out, but the team-centric Pistons put a stop to their overwhelming-through-talent plan. In the end, I expect these Lakers to at least have a very good series with Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals. They’ll have the benefit of a full training camp and 82 game season to work out the kinks, so that’s in their favor. This, I think, is what Dwyane Wade is referring to. That at some level, there has to be conscious effort to make it work, and that you can’t rely on organic development for everything to come together. It wasn’t until Dwyane Wade actively ceded his Miami crown to LeBron that the Heat truly figured it out. And until something like that happens in L.A., no matter who comes out on top as the team’s primary offensive player, they won’t be able to “make it work” either.
Should Wade be nervous about the Lakers clicking and finding the right chemistry?
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