The final positive sign I will touch on is the performance Metta World Peace provided. Again, against the lowly Pistons, but if MWP provides anywhere near that type offensive output (18 points on 7-11 FGs) , these Lakers are going to be awfully tough to beat. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, MWP’s scoring will come and go, but his assertiveness (within the team concept) could be a determining factor for this team’s ultimate success. Put simply, if MWP is engaged and fully locked in, the only thing I see stopping this team in the future will likely be the health of the starting unit.
Speaking of health, like many of you, I was very concerned with Mike Brown having to resort to putting Bryant/Howard/Gasol back into the game midway through the fourth quarter. Yes, it was still a 20-plus point lead, but Brown is undoubtedly in a position where the pressure is on to succeed. With all the hype and expectations heading into the season, not to mention the endless stream of questions over his qualifications as a head coach, Brown has the unenviable task of getting this team to respond on the fly.
Last season, I was on record as one of the few individuals that (all things considered) actually felt the team overachieved. This season, I’ve said multiple times that no such excuses/allowances would be rendered. Whether fair or not, Brown has the task of overcoming early season injuries (yet again), but with true title aspirations on the line. I highly doubt Brown is expecting any of us to feel sorry for the circumstances, as he had to have known the job would be relatively difficult (not to mention, thankless) at best.
For now, I’m okay with Brown having to mix the lineups out of necessity. Once Nash is back, I would hope he is able to lock down his rotations quickly, so the team can truly progress and develop familiarity. Whether he has produced at a high level to date, Jodie Meeks will eventually need to settle into productive minutes behind Bryant. It has only been four games, but almost sitting out of consecutive games altogether isn’t exactly a vote of confidence. I fully acknowledge the pressure to win, but that shouldn’t supersede the advancement of the team, moving forward.
Unlike last season, this is a team with realistic title hopes. After one victory, I’m sure there are some of you may feel this type of talk is a bit premature. I’m here to remind folks of true title aspirations being the ‘norm’ for the Los Angeles Lakers, so there really is no such thing as premature. Again, only one ‘W’ in the standings, but I feel like this team is truly going to be special. Streaks, stretches, and positive seasons all begin with one game. Could this be the kick-start this team desperately needed?
After a winless October and early November, we’ll see how this team responds to a bit of success with their road match-up vs. the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. After that, they don’t leave the comfy confines of Staples Center for the next 16 days. If the preseason meetings (both double-digit losses) are any indication, overcoming the youth and athleticism the Jazz can throw at you will be no easy task. I believe these Lakers are rounding into shape, and will be ready for the challenge.