Lakers reloaded: Kobe Bryant holds key to NBA title


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The Los Angeles Lakers made some significant upgrades during the offseason acquiring two-time NBA MVP, Steve Nash, and the best defensive Center in the league in Dwight Howard.  They key to both of those acquisitions was that the Lakers found a way to get better and keep Pau Gasol.  Gasol is one of the most versatile big men in the NBA today and despite constant criticism, the Lakers are better off with him.

As the Lakers head into their 2012-13 campaign they will eventually boast one of the most formidable lineups in recent NBA history.  Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard once he is ready to return; sounds like a walk to the NBA title right?  Well maybe not so fast.

The Lakers may look like the best team on paper but they are truly far from championship material.  Chemistry could cost this team significantly and ultimately hinder their title aspirations.  Whether it’s distribution or scoring, Kobe, Nash, and Dwight all need the ball in order to do what they do best.  Throughout his NBA career, Kobe Bryant has never had a premier Point Guard.  Now that he does, he’ll surely have to adjust his game if this Lakers team is going to reach its maximum potential.

For years Kobe Bryant has made a living on creating the best shots possible for himself.  With Nash in the mix, that philosophy will have to change.  Nash has the ability to find the open man in the best position to score whether it’s Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace or Reeves Nelson.  Come on Lakers fans. Be honest.  How long can Kobe tolerate the Lakers attack not running primarily through him?  He’s already made it clear that the Lakers are still his team.

“I got a question earlier about whose team this is,” Bryant told reporters at the Lakers media day Monday. “I don’t want to get into the, ‘Well, we share …’ No, it’s my team. But I want to make sure that Dwight, when I retire, this is going to be his. I want to teach him everything I possibly know so that when I step away this organization can ride on as if I never left.”

The bottom line is that Kobe Bryant is the key to making this Lakers team work.  It’s often said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and as Bryant enters his 17th season in the NBA, his willingness to conform to the new look Lakers roster strengths could make or break the team’s season.  If Bryant can swallow his pride (doubtful) and become a role player in the Lakers offense, then the Lakers have a tremendous shot at winning it all.  However if he still wants to be the centerpiece on an offensively gifted roster, the Lakers chemistry will suffer.  Kobe has to learn quickly to separate leadership from scoring. The Lakers can still be “his team” without him taking 30 shots a game.  Just ask Magic Johnson.

We’ll see what happens.  But it’s really all up to Kobe Bryant.

Follow Aaron on Twitter @Da_Bear_Truth.

5 reasons Howard makes the Lakers only paper champions

Dwight Howard

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers don’t rebuild, they simply reload.  With an impressive 16 NBA Championships throughout their illustrious history, the Lakers only trail the Boston Celtics by one in the overall title count.  In attempt to bring another championship to L.A. during the Kobe Bryant era, last week the Lakers pulled off one of the biggest trades in recent NBA history as they acquired Center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic.  The move has Lakers fans ready to take a day off following next year’s NBA Finals in order to attend a Championship parade. Well, not so fast.  On paper the Lakers indeed have a championship roster but here are five reasons that a paper crown is the only one they’ll be wearing in the near future.

1.   Howard is an upgrade in name only.  When was the last time a Center led his team to an NBA Championship?  Try 2002 when the Shaquille O’Neal led Lakers won three consecutive titles.  The Lakers had the second best Center in the NBA and traded him for the best.  The problem is that Dwight Howard isn’t capable of taking over a game night in and night out.  Sure with the plethora of options in the Lakers starting five he won’t have to but then again neither did Andrew Bynum.  Last season, Bynum averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game with a trigger happy Kobe Bryant and a productive Pau Gasol.  Meanwhile, Dwight Howard averaged 18.4 points, 13 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game in an offensive system that featured him. The bottom line is that Howard is not a significant enough difference to put the Lakers over the top.

2.  Mike Brown is still the Lakers coach.  For several years with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Mike Brown had the best team in the NBA and it wasn’t on paper either.  His LeBron James led teams were kicking ass and taking no names; until it really counted in the NBA playoffs.  How will Brown put it all together and make all of the personalities mesh?  Kobe and Metta World Peace are enough on their own.  Now he’s going to have Dwight Howard, who we know can be a whiner, to deal with.  Brown’s one saving grace could be Steve Nash.  Nash is a floor general who is the Lakers best chance at finding chemistry quickly.

3.  The status of Howard’s back is an X factor.  The status of Dwight Howard’s back will be a huge question mark for the Lakers next season.  In April, Howard had season ending surgery to repair a herniated disk.  The move kept him out of the Olympics and crippled his former team’s chances during the playoffs.  Howard is currently unsure when he will return but reports have already begun to surface that he will not be ready for the start of the regular season.  What if he suffers a set back and doesn’t play until December or even the playoffs?  The trade will have become a huge bust for the Lakers.

4.  History says no championship next season.  As NBA history teaches us it’s difficult to assemble and NBA Championship team overnight.  The recent exception being the 2008 Boston Celtics who brought in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to form a Big 3 along with Paul Pierce and went on to win a title immediately.  The Miami Heat tried to replicate what the Celtics did by signing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to go along with Dwayne Wade.  As everyone knows it took them two seasons to figure it out.  Back in 2003 the Lakers signed veteran free agents Karl Malone and Gary Payton to go along with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.  That Lakers team struggled with chemistry which eventually resulted in a five game defeat at the hands of a lackluster Detroit Pistons roster in the NBA Finals.

5.  The Oklahoma City Thunder.  Before the Lakers can even entertain the thought making it to the NBA Finals they’ll have to dethrone the current Western Conference Champions and a hungry Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will have plenty to say about it.  OKC assembled its team from the ground up and after losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals they will be determined to make another championship run.  For the Thunder to fall to the Lakers (another assembled to win team) it would be a slap in the face of the right way to win championships.  And Lakers fans better believe that the Thunder aren’t ready to rollover in defeat just yet.

Follow Aaron on Twitter @Da_Bear_Truth