The Most Overlooked Storylines Heading Into the New Season Reviewed by Momizat on . By this point, the major topics of discussion revolving around the Lakers have been exhausted: when will Kobe return from his Achilles injury? When he does retu By this point, the major topics of discussion revolving around the Lakers have been exhausted: when will Kobe return from his Achilles injury? When he does retu Rating:
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The Most Overlooked Storylines Heading Into the New Season

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles LakersBy this point, the major topics of discussion revolving around the Lakers have been exhausted: when will Kobe return from his Achilles injury? When he does return, what type of player will Bryant be? After an injury ridden season last year, will the team be getting the old Steve Nash back or just an old Nash? Can Gasol thrive without Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum taking up his preferred position?

We, the fans, have been discussing these normative issues for months now and we’re all ready for the season to officially start on Tuesday night. But before we get there, let’s take a look at some of the storylines that have been overlooked, but not to be ignored.

1. Who fills in for Earl Clark?

Mitch Kupchak brought in a plethora of athletic wing players from the bargain bin to replace Metta World Peace and Earl Clark. Enough has been written about MWP’s departure, but the Lakers are going to miss Earl Clark, who elected to take more money to sign with Cleveland.

Clark was the latest in the line of guys the GM has brought in that have produced beyond their expectations. Following in the footsteps of Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown, Clark (who was a throw-in in the Dwight Howard trade last summer) started 33 games in the regular season for the team last year, serving as the stretch four that Coach Mike D’Antoni loves to utilize in his system. With all due respect to a declining MWP, Clark was the team’s best perimeter defender for most of last year and that void now needs to be filled.

Wesley Johnson, acquired from the Phoenix Suns, will likely be called upon to pick up where Clark left off. Shawne Williams may also receive ample opportunity, as one of D’Antoni’s favorites from his coaching tenure in the Big Apple.

2. A crowded backcourt.

Speaking of the trolley Kupchak brought in the offseason, the Lakers’ backcourt is suddenly very deep in comparison to last year. Take a look.

At the end of last year…

PG: 1. Steve Nash, 2. Steve Blake, 3. Chris Duhon, 4. Darius Morris
SG: 1. Kobe Bryant, 2. Jodie Meeks, 3. Andrew Goudelock

At full health, this year…

PG: 1. Steve Nash, 2. Steve Blake, 3. Jordan Farmar
SG: 1. Kobe Bryant, 2. Nick Young, 3. Jodie Meeks, 4. Xavier Henry.

Considering the team strut out Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris to start Games 3 and 4 versus San Antonio, and considering both of those players aren’t with the team anymore, I’d say the backcourt received a very positive makeover. Suddenly, this team is now spoiled for choice in the backcourt.

Now, like everything else, the productivity of this backcourt is contingent on the health of Bryant and Nash, as Blake, Farmar, Young and Meeks are very serviceable reserves but subpar when asked to produce against elite starting units.

3. Will this team defy the odds?

No one outside of those inside the locker room is expecting much out of the 2013-14 Lakers. In fact, Vegas have set the over/under on regular wins this season at 33.5.The Raptors (36.5), Cavaliers (40), Pelicans (41) and Wizards (42) are all projected to win more games than the Lakers by the bookies. Those projections may be realistic, especially because the Raps and the Wiz play in the East, but 33.5 still seems a bit low.

Let’s contextualize. Despite their slow start to the season last year, the boys still got their act together and reached 45 wins. The year before, the team managed to win 41 games despite the lockout shortened 66 game season.

The only season in which the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs since acquiring Kobe Bryant is the 2004-2005 season. Bryant surrounded by Lamar Odom, Vlade Divac in the twilight of his career and a bunch of nobodies, still hauled the team to 34 wins.

Going to sound like a broken record here, but as long as Nash stays relatively healthy and Bryant is back by around Christmas time and resembles Kobe Bryant; this team should comfortably reach 34 wins despite their shortcomings.

So, go put $5 on this or something.

4. Monitoring Mike D’Antoni

After the team limped out of the gate to start 1-4, last year, Mike Brown was fired. Since the NBA-ABA merged in 1976, no team has fired its coach after fewer teams. Then came the well-documented Phil Jackson saga, before the team decided on hiring Mike D’Antoni.

The expectation last season was championship or bust. The bar is set much lower for D’Antoni. If this team sneaks into the playoffs, this season will be considered a success by most.

However, I still don’t think Coach Pringles has an unlimited leash this year considering the history of head coaches with this franchise not named Pat Riley or Phil Jackson. Here’s a look at the last 30 years.

Pat Riley 1981-1990
Mike Dunleavy: 1990-1992
Randy Pfund: 1992-1994
Del Harris: 1994-1999
Kurt Rambis: 1999
Phil Jackson: 1999-2004
Rudy Tomjanovich: 2004-2005
Phil Jackson 2005-2011
Mike Brown: 2011-12
Mike D’Antoni: 2012- current day.
(note: interim coaches were exempt from this list)

According to my calculations, the average tenure of the Lakers’ head coaches over the past 30 years is 3.5 seasons.  This could be a make-or-break season for D’Antoni. He could prove himself to be the right coach to usher the team into the next era or he could join the list of coaches who served as another temporary blip during a transitional period for this storied franchise.

Be mindful of these sneaky storylines as we count down to Tuesday; until then, I can’t wait.

About The Author

Lee joined Lakers Nation in 2011 as a staff writer and attended Ryerson University in Toronto for journalism. To read more of Gabe's work for Lakers Nation click here. Follow Gabe on Twitter @therealgaber.

Number of Entries : 92
  • Jim213

    Phil Jackson: 1994-2004? 1999-2004.

  • hookedonnews

    I think D’antoni’s job is safe unless this season turns into some unmitigated disaster. He’s clearly already done a good job getting these guys ready to play, and they (FO and players) are very happy with his system.

    • PakiLakerFan1

      WTF Dantoni Job is Safe if they sign him to a long term contract which I doubt the Laker Fans will be calling for Jim buss head to step down as CEO and let Jenie Buss take over other wise this franchise could very much become what the Clippers use to be which I doubt..

      • hookedonnews

        No one said anything about a long term contract. Fans calling for Jim Buss to step down have about as much effect as me demanding that he give me season tickets. Jeanie Buss has the job that her dad wanted her to have. Same goes for Jim. If D’Antoni does a good job he’ll be the coach. If he doesn’t he’ll be fired. That’s usually the way it works. D’Antoni has a contract. Whether or not he gets another one will depend on how the team performs. I assume you want the team to do well. If it does, what’s the problem?

      • Spitfire47

        LMAO on Jim Buss stepping down.The reason why Jerry Buss handed the basketball operation to Jim and not Jeannie is Jim is always on his father side and has been part of the FO decisions for years now.And you will hand it to Jeannie?What Jeannie know about running the basketball?geez!
        Your obvious lack of knowledge with the team makes your comment laughable.Read all the Lakers reports, interviews from the people involved themselves and you judge then you will have a deeper understanding of what is going on inside and out of Lakers team.
        And that’s what makes Jim Buss haters so laughable, ignorance and biased reports makes you all haters.

      • Badeng

        What does Mike Brown, Phil and D’Antoni have that Jim Buss doesn’t? Answer: A contract. Jim Buss and siblings now owns majority of the Lakers Organization and Jim runs Basketball Operations. So whether he makes wise decisions or runs it to the ground, it will be his call. Fans can chant, “we want Phil” as loud as they can or call on Jim to step down–but guess who has the last say? OF course! The one who approves all those contracts.So let’s all show some respect and appreciate the Buss family for giving LA the best basketball team in history

  • egjsixthree

    did you all see and hear charles “no ring” barkley say the lakers are not going to make the playoffs? he was interviewed during halftime of tonights monday night football and he says the freakin’ clips and miami heat are going to the finals! really charles?

    • Paytc

      Like everyone Barkley is free to have his opinions. Ask yourself a few good questions….
      How many times have you known Barkley to be right? How many championship rings has Barkley won? How many times has Barkley said anything other than the typical pc comment for job security etc……

      But that actually is not that hard to believe. I think the Heat is the favorites to 3 peat in Vegas? And Doc Rivers will have a significant impact on an already good playoff bound Clippers team.

      It’s not about hating other teams as much as it is taking care of the necessary steps we need for the Lakers to pull off the upset and win the championship themselves. Handle our business and we can’t be stopped.

      To all Lakers from the fans,players,coaches,support staff,F.O. etc….
      Let everyone associated with the franchise “STEP UP ” and be accountable as we reach out for yet another NBA championship (this year and every year that follows).

      Go Lakers !

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