EL SEGUNDO-The Los Angeles Lakers are a much different team than they were last season. There are going to be a lot of names fans are going to have to get get used hearing this season at Staples Center as the Lakers try to map out a plan to have a successful 2013-14 NBA campaign.
Outside of the usual familiar faces of Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers are a patchwork of unknown faces, veterans and unheard of names. That was evident at the team’s annual media day, which was held at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo.
The core of the cast are back in place. But the background singers are singing a different tune these days. Coveted big man Earl Clark is gone. Center Dwight Howard decided to take his talents to the Lone Star state to hook up with James Harden as a member of the Houston Rockets.
The Lakers brokered Metta World Peace’s departure through the league’s amnesty clause. Darius Morris and Devin Ebanks are gone. But the Lakers, restocking and re-tooling their options for 2014, have been able to pull some names out of a straw hat to complete their roster this season.
That’s not to say that guard Wesley Johnson, swingman Nick Young and Lakers returnee Jordan Farmar won’t be able to step in and make some noise. The Lakers don’t put together a team of scrubs. Just because of the names of the players are little known, doesn’t mean they can’t ball.
Anytime you can take the floor with Kobe Bryant, you must have some type of game. But it may take some time before those players win over the hometown fans, who sometimes get a bit delirious if the Lakers are not contending for a title. This is the Lakers, so expectations rise higher than for other ballclubs around the league.
That in itself is a quandary for the team. Both Bryant and Nash are entering into their 18th seasons as NBA pros. Gasol just put the finishing touches on his 12th year. Center Chris Kaman, a quality stop-gap filler in the post for the recently departed Howard, has played 10 years in the NBA. Needless to say, the Lakers have a roster filled with older stars.
Sooner of later, youth will have to be served. The Lakers are at least looking in that direction now with training camp invitees that include rookies Eric Boateng (6-10, 257 pounds), Elias Harris (6-8, 220 pounds) and promising talent like Xavier Henry (6-6, 200 pounds) and Darius Johnson-Odom (6-2, 215 pounds).
Of course, the other million dollar question coming into training camp swirls around the torn achilles that Kobe Bryant suffered at the end of the regular season this past spring. Because of his potential to put points on the board, Young was signed by the Lakers this offseason as a free agent.
Young is not Kobe, but he can make it happen with the basketball. Just in case Kobe isn’t ready to go on opening night, Young should be able to handle his business and give the Lakers a boost with his athletic skills.