Written by: Carmen Vitali
Prior to this season’s start, all eyes were on the Lakers’ off-season transactions in the pickups of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. While the Nash news was overshadowed as soon as word of Howard’s trade became widespread, people got to wondering, how was this going to work?
Dwight Howard, who’s on and off-court egos seem to match his giant stature, was now entering an environment that wasn’t his. The Lakers are Kobe Bryant’s team. They have been since he got there, and they will be until he turns 35, which is… er… next year? Okay, forget that.
Point is: the question of team chemistry came up. Would Howard be willing to take a backseat to the Black Mamba and work with Pau Gasol for the overall gelling of the team? Would he swallow his superstar pride and actually listen to his new coach, Mike Brown?
Last week those questions became irrelevant with the hiring of new Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni.
By now you all know D’Antoni’s stats. His golden years came in Phoenix, which he credited largely to his best player (enter stage left) Steve Nash. Nash won two MVP awards under D’Antoni’s tutelage and with the two reuniting here begs another question:
Whose team is it now?
D’Antoni has been quoted saying he feels better when Nash feels better. He is a better coach when he has Nash. Well now that he has him and plans to implement his fast-paced-is-putting-it-lightly offense, guess who is going to take the reins?
Nash has a Ph.D. in D’Antoni’s offense and Kobe is just starting undergrad (okay, I’ll give him junior status after working with D’Antoni in the Olympics I suppose). All of a sudden it isn’t Dwight Howard that Kobe has to worry about; it’s the unassuming 38-year old Canadian with a fractured fibula.
And oh yeah? Dwight Howard? D’Antoni is looking for him to be the defensive anchor. Obviously, he is a great defensive player and you have to think all seven feet of him will fit quite nicely in a west coast offense. But with just a year left on his contract, will that be enough time to shine light on Dwight?
What’s most surprising is that this question of whose team the Lakers are may not even be an issue. Kobe is in a different mindset entirely it seems. With his 18th triple double coming a few days ago and eight assists in the Lakers win against the Brooklyn Nets perhaps the bigger question is: has the unthinkable happened? Is Kobe now a passer?
Before this turns into another end of the world comparison let’s just leave it at D’Antoni looking like the right move for the Lakers after all. The players seem to already be buying into D’Antoni’s ideas. And let’s get one thing straight- if D’Antoni’s scheme works, it is going to really work.
The Lakers could absolutely live up to the inevitable hype that has been placed on them with their high-profile starting five. If they do take the championship this year, Howard will stay, Nash will crank out another year and Kobe and his Lakers will live happily ever after with multiple championships to show for it. Either way, get the curtain call ready because it could be Showtime.