Los Angeles Lakers 2013-14 Season Update
The Los Angeles Lakers started the 2013/2014 season in a position they are not familiar with, as underdogs. They started last season as a favorite to win the Larry O’Brien trophy, with the additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, but couldn’t live up to the lofty expectations because of injuries, coaching changes, and other distractions.
In the offseason, the Lakers failed to resign Dwight Howard who ended up signing with the Houston Rockets, so they used the money they would have spent on Howard to sign other players like Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, and Nick Young, they also brought back a familiar face in Jordan Farmer who won two championships with the team before leaving to play for the former New Jersey Nets.
Because of their inability to sign any big name free agents, and the Achilles injury Kobe Bryant suffered late last season, the Lakers were not supposed to be a good team this year. Even with a healthy Bryant, most experts had them missing the playoffs, with a few giving them a chance to clinch the eighth and final spot.
So far this season, the Lakers have been surprising people with their strong play, after 18 games, they are 9-9 and in 4th place in the Pacific Division, which is very impressive considering they are still without All-Star Kobe Bryant who is expected to rejoin the team later this week or early next week. They are currently 1 game behind the Dallas Mavericks and the Golden State warriors for the 8th and final playoff berth, and are very much in the playoff picture.
Veteran center Pau Gasol leads the team in scoring and rebounding, and is getting a lot of help from the bench which was one of the worst in the NBA last season.
So far this season the Lakers have had impressive wins against the Los Angeles Clippers who are on top of the Pacific Conference, Houston Rockets who have the 5th best record in the Western Conference, and the Golden State Warriors who are currently 8th in the Western Conference
The Lakers also have wins against the Atlanta Hawks, and Detroit Pistons, two teams in the Eastern Conference contending for playoff spots, and have defeated teams with losing records like they are supposed to like the Brooklyn Nets, and Sacramento Kings. They have lost to some of the best teams in the league like the defending Western Conference Champions San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, and the surprising Portland Trailblazers, but that is to be expected since their best player was out for all those games.
The Lakers are playing pretty well on offense, they are currently 14th in the league averaging 101.1 points per game, and that will improve once they get Bryant back. The defense on the other hand needs a lot of work, head coach Mike D’antoni has never been known as a defensive coach, but he needs to get his team on the same page defensively because they allow 102.9 points a game which is 27th in the league, and it is almost impossible to make the playoffs if you allow other teams to score more than you do.
Three of the Lakers four home losses came against the Spurs, Grizzlies, and Trailblazers; they are acceptable losses because two of those teams are on top of the western Conference and have only lost three games each so far. They still need to defend their home court better especially when Kobe Bryant returns because their best chance of making the playoffs is to win as many home games as possible especially if the team is not good on the road.
Road games have not been good to the Lakers in the past two seasons, they were 16-25 last season, and are currently 3-5. Though it is not as bad as last year, they still need to improve their play on the road because they will need to win on the road in the playoffs if they plan to make a serious run.
Other than Kobe Bryant, the team was relatively healthy the first month of the season. That isn’t the case anymore, Pau Gasol has been bothered by an ankle sprain, but he isn’t expected to miss any action, Jordan Farmer who has been part of the resurgent bench has a torn hamstring, and is expected to miss at least four weeks, Steve Nash is still recovering from a nerve irritation and hasn’t played in a month. The Lakers are hoping to have Nash and Bryant back soon so they should be okay, especially if the role players continue playing as well as they have.
The Western Conference has always been tough when it comes to making the playoffs, and this year isn’t going to be any different. The Lakers were the 7th seed last year with 45 wins, so they will need at least 45 wins again this year to make the playoffs. They have a good chance of making it because they have won half of the games they have played so far, and with the return of Bryant they should be able to win more than half of their remaining games.
They are currently competing with Phoenix, Golden State, Memphis, Dallas and New Orleans for the final spot, Memphis lost one of their star players to injury and aren’t playing very well without him, New Orleans, and Phoenix are still young teams and are probably a year away from really competing, Golden State and Dallas are the real threats, the Lakers are 1-1 against Golden State and 0-1 against Dallas, they need to win the season series against both teams and get the tie breaker advantage in case they all finish the season with the same record.