There was supposed to be a new favorite in the Western Conference this season. And when the Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden just a few days before the start of the regular season, that notion was believed to be true more than ever.
The Los Angeles Lakers were supposed to return to NBA title contention after acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash this offseason. It may take a little more time than people thought.
The new additions, Howard and Nash, haven’t exactly fit in seamlessly. A big reason for that has been the introduction of the Princeton Offense by Lakers head coach Mike Brown.
The Princeton Offense takes time to learn and the Lakers are trying to learn it on the fly. It doesn’t feature the individual stars on this team like they have been in the past. Instead, it relies on reading and reacting to the defense and moving the ball all around the floor. With ball stoppers like Kobe Bryant and Howard, maybe it’s not the best fit for this team.
Kobe is averaging 27.2 points per game so far this season and shooting 56.0 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three. Those numbers are supposed to mean the Lakers are winning but they are still losing thanks to their weak bench and inconsistency from other starters.
Howard is averaging 22.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He looks different though, slower and a little out of shape. He’s getting banged up quite a bit, attempting 12.8 free throws per game, and the impact he was supposed to have on defense simply isn’t there yet.
Nash has only played in two games for the Lakers, missing the last three. He only totaled nine points and eight assists in those games and it seems Nash without the ball in his hands 90 percent of the time, isn’t an All-Star anymore.
Fans are calling for changes in Laker country from the style of offense to the head coach. Through just five games in the regular season, they are impatient and deservedly so. This group wasn’t supposed to take this long to mesh, especially with the clock ticking on Kobe, Nash and Pau Gasol. They’re not trying to start a dynasty; they’re trying to win a title now.
Meanwhile, the Thunder haven’t gotten off to the best start themselves, winning two of their first four and having some problems along the way.
The defending Western Conference champs looked like they have taken a step back with Harden’s departure and Russell Westbrook displaying some of the same high-volume shot problems he has always had.
The Thunder can take comfort in the Lakers’ struggles though. It makes OKC look like they are perfectly fine watching the Lakers struggle like this. It means maybe we were too quick to jump ship on the Thunder too. They took a hit with losing Harden but they are still fully capable of improving from what they were last year.
There’s a lot of basketball yet to be played but crowning the Lakers this early was definitely a mistake. It’s still the Thunder’s conference and their biggest competition suddenly doesn’t look so sharp.