New recruits this summer include Boozer and Lin…
With Kobe Bryant back from injury, the Los Angeles Lakers will be hoping to vastly improve on their dismal season last year and push for a playoff spot.
The Lakers ended the regular season with a 27-55 record, with the Utah Jazz the only team faring worse in the Western Conference. Having lost Dwight Howard in free agency and then being struck with injury problems throughout the campaign, the writing was on the wall for Mike D’Antoni.
The former Coach was publicly questioned by veteran players such as Pau Gasol, and after his dismissal was confirmed, there was a fairly positive response. However, much was out of his control after losing Bryant for all but six games last season, but ultimately the team wasn’t good enough.
There aren’t too many positives to take from last year, although the form of Nick Young and Jordan Hill ensured the pair were re-signed as the roster looks completely different yet again.
Can Bryant still be the talismanic leader of this team?
As noted above, the 36-year-old played in just six games last season. However, his rehabilitation has gone well and he is expected to be fully healthy by the time the new season gets underway.
Bryant concedes that he is no longer as athletic and quick as he was in his peak, but he is still a consistent scorer and is more than just another player on the roster. The veteran guard improves those around him with his work-ethic and commitment to the franchise, and that can only benefit the younger stars on the team.
The Lakers legend doesn’t need any more reason to be motivated, but having largely been written off in terms of getting back to his best, he will be hell-bent on silencing the critics and helping the franchise improve. New Coach Byron Scott insisted that he would manage his minutes this season, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can deal with a limited role.
Jeremy Lin’s arrival adds star quality and talent to the roster at the guard position, while Carlos Boozer brings experience, steady scoring and a point to prove with him from Chicago. This is likely to be Steve Nash’s final year in the NBA and so the veteran point guard will also want to make an impression, as does rookie Julius Randle who is on the other end of the career spectrum and is a real prospect.
If Bryant stays fit, then the Lakers will not be looking at another 25-win season. While there are doubts over their ability to compete for a playoff spot, realistically they will certainly be looking no higher than the final two spots in the West.
While that in itself will be a huge task, they will likely settle for a general improvement and progress under Scott, with a view of strengthening again in the summer ahead of Bryant’s final year. Young will be a huge factor for them after he averaged 17.9 points in 64 games last year, but the roster looks a little thin and ultimately it could be another hard slog for Lakers nation with the lottery perhaps popping up on the agenda.
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Xavier Henry
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Jordan Hill
Sixth Man: Nick Young