COMMENTARY | Most teams in the NBA start the season with some hope for a championship run. It doesn't matter whether it's a team of young guys or veterans -- they feel there's a chance that this season could be the season.
The odds are stacked against almost every team, since only one team can be the champs. And to make things even more difficult, only six different teams have won the title in the last 15 years.
It does seem like the odds are increasing that a new team could come along and give the league a new champ. Other than the Miami Heat, the other five teams that have been hogging all the glory seem unlikely to be in the running, regardless of how much hope they have.
The Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons don't have any chance really and would be lucky at this point to make it into the playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs made it to the NBA Finals last year, but that had all the makings of a "last hoorah" for Tim Duncan and company.
That leaves the L.A. Lakers. They seem to be in the same boat as the Spurs -- on the slow descent into mediocrity that usually accompanies aging players. I recently wrote about how this season could be a disaster for the Lakers.
They lost the best center in the league when Dwight Howard took his talents to Houston. Like most teams, there are quite a few questions that surround the team during training camp. And the answers will ultimately tell us where this team is headed.
1. What's the Real Status of The Kobot?
There is no fiercer competitor in the league than Kobe Bryant. His training ethic is unlike any other and his desire to succeed can never be questioned. Love him or hate him, the league is a better place with him in it. However, a torn Achilles tendon is a really big deal. Basketball players depend on their legs a lot for most basketball-related activities. And the Achilles tendon is a vital part of proper leg function.
His speedy recovery is admirable, but everyone but the blindest of fans should have a healthy amount of skepticism. The Kobot is one of the greatest players ever, but he is still a human person with a human body.
2. What's Pau Gasol's Position?
When Pau Gasol is involved in the offense, the Lakers are a better team -- and even more so if he's positioned at center. Will coach Mike D'Antoni agree? In the 2012 Olympics, Pau played center for Spain and was a dominant force. Now that Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard are gone, he is the big man.
The team also brought in Chris Kaman, but Lakers fans can only hope that his role is limited to backup duties. The word on the street is that Pau's knees are at 100 percent after procedures on both. This is good. Knees are also a very important part of leg function. There's a very good chance that Pau could put up his best season yet.
3. When Will Steve Nash Get Injured?
People forget that before Steve Nash started playing with the Phoenix Suns, he was injured regularly. The Suns' training staff found a way to minimize his injuries and keep him on the court. Then he went to the Lakers and was injured almost immediately.
His numbers were a bit down last year when he was healthy, but that's no surprise because his numbers were down the year before as well. This is something that NBA experts and doctors call "getting old." It's incurable and while it isn't particularly contagious, it does seem to have spread through the Lakers' locker room like HPV at a sorority.
4. Will Coach Mike D'Antoni Deliver?
All the stories about how Phil Jackson was supposed to be hired over D'Antoni are just making this situation that already started weird get even more bizarre. It seems the team still thinks his system can work, and that it wasn't just a fluke that it worked in Phoenix for a couple years.
His teams have never been known for their defense, and this Lakers team is lining up to be one of the worst in the league at preventing points.
5. Who Else Will Play?
Once you get past The Kobot, Pau and Nash, there isn't really a lot of quality on this team. Jordan Farmar might produce and the trio of Nick Young, Shawne Williams and Wes Johnson all have talent, but they are each themselves more a question than an answer.
Replacing Metta World Peace on the court will be easy, but these additions don't seem like quite enough to make up for the loss of Dwight Howard.
"Chemistry is the study of matter, but I prefer to see it as the study of change. ... It is growth, then decay, then transformation." So said Walt White in the pilot episode of the hit TV show Breaking Bad.
The Lakers have definitely moved past the growth phase and are now in decay. The overall question is whether their transformation will result in yet another playoff run or in a rare lottery pick.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a sportswriter. You can see him on Twitter @JedRigney.
- Sports & Recreation
- Dwight Howard
- Pau Gasol