The Los Angeles Lakers (otherwise known as The Lake Blow instead of The Lake Show) are built to win now. Possibly now. Hopefully not. Definitely built to win a few years ago. Maybebuilt to win next year. Beyond that: not so much. When you bring in a 38-year-old point guard (39 in February) to complement your 34-year-old franchise player – no matter how improbably that point guard seems to defy aging – you are playing for the present, even if you acquire a 26-year-old superstar (read: still-maturing, indecisive, femininely with a masculine facade) center for good measure. If the Lakers don’t win a title in the next two years, when Steve Nash will be 40 and Kobe might retire, the team’s off-season bonanza will be a failure. And the bad news for the Lakers:
It’s going to be damn hard to win a title over the next two years, brahs:
The Lakers’ top four players – Kobe, Howard, Nash and ‘Porcelain Doll’ Gasol – constitute about as talented a quartet as any NBA team has ever featured. But the Lakers, as you know, aren’t the only team in the NBA with tons of talent at the top of the roster. They’re not the only team in the conference with tons of talent at the top of the roster. The Thunder are deeper, and they’ve been together longer, so we know how the pieces fit. They’ve been to the Finals already, and all their building blocks are still young. They’re a team built for the present and the future. The route to the Finals in the Western Conference runs through Oklahoma City, and it’s a road the Lakers don’t have much time to navigate.
About the pieces fitting together: nobody has any damn clue how they will. Nash is more of a distributor than a scorer and is distributing to the most talented group he’s ever been around. He should be fine (again, as long as the cumulative effects of aging don’t suddenly hit him all at once). And Gasol’s used to not being the No. 1 scoring option from playing the last several years with Kobe. But Kobe and Howard – those are two big-time players, and big personalities (read: perennial dickhead and melodramatic bitchboy. Superman? Ha!). The Magic were built around Howard. The Lakers aren’t built around him in nearly the same way.
Kobe’s a little past his prime, but he’s still one of the best players in the league, and he’s still going to want to be the top dog. Howard’s going to want touches. Gasol’s still going to want his share. And Nash is such an efficient shooter that he’d be doing the Lakers a disservice if h edidn’t shoot his share of times. If anyone can make this show work, it’s him, but there’s no guarantee this experiment will run smoothly. (The Lakers’ 0-8 start this preseason, even though you can basically throw it out since it’s the preseason and they gave their top guys tons of rest, gives doubters a bit of fuel.) And if even if it does run smoothly eventually.
This group of shitheads will need time. Time, again, that the Lakers don’t really have. They’ll be able to overwhelm most of their opponents with the sheer talent of their best players. In the playoffs? Things’ll get a little tougher. We know that thanks in part to the Heat, who struggled early in LeBron’s first season with the team, then fell apart when it counted most against the Mavs in the Finals. They didn’t really figure things out until this past season. The Lakers had better not take any longer to gel than the Heat did – and if they make it work, they’ll have to beat those same Heat, led by a LeBron at the peak of his powers, to win that elusive title. That’s a ton to ask even of the team the Lakers put together this summer.
And behind that partly-aging top four, the Lakers have… not a ton. Steve Blake and Chris Duhon are serviceable backcourt backups, but Jodie Meeks is no Kobe (not that almost anyone is). If Kobe misses any time (and he did miss eight games last season), the Lakers are thin behind him. And their frontcourt depth is pretty much “Jordan Hill and Antawn Jamison” – hey, speaking of “win now,” Jamison’s 36. Also, Jamison’s not really a post player, so he’s probably better seen as a backup to Metta World Peace than the Gasol/Howard tandem. The Lakers will hope for the best, health-wise. To do what they’re hoping to do, they desperately need it.
The collection of talent Mitch Kupchak assembled is irresistible. If the pieces fit, the Lakers are going to be almost unbeatable. How could the prospect of Kobe and Howard and Gasol coming at you, with Nash masterfully orchestrating, not scare the hell out of pretty much any team – the ‘using LeBron as a power forward’ Heat included? The Lakers might not win a title. Winning a title is really hard. But even if they don’t, it was worth a shot to put a team like this together, giving me another shot to poke fun and laugh at their failures along the way. Call it a noble experiment – and there’s a real chance it could be a spectacularly successful one. The Lakers will do or try anything they can to try to match up with The Pride and The Glory of The Boston Celtics.