SOMETIMES lineup changes made by NBA teams as they prepare for a new season truly perplexes me.
Take for example the reigning champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. After winning last season’s crown via an unprecented route (the bubble season), they chose to make radical changes, jettisoning crucial role players in favor of new pieces that though on paper appear to be solid choices. To me, it appears to be risky as it might affect whatever championship chemistry they had.
I mean, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?
ROLE. Dwight Howard was having one of his best seasons in recent memory. Once a franchise player of championship teams, his career had taken a downward trajectory when he underwent a metamorphosis of sorts as he re-signed with his former team.
Despite a significant reduction in playing time (which was expected when you join a Lebron James-led team), he punched in solid numbers, averaging 7.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 18.9 minutes.
But his greatest contribution was the menacing defensive presence he gave them. Who can forget how he defended Nikola Jokic in the series against the Denver Nuggets where he harassed him and bullied him every chance he got?
Together with Javalee McGee (another player not re-signed), they provided the Lakers with a towering frontcourt that dissuaded and discouraged many forays into the lane.
The stats will not show it, but consider how many shots their opponents had to alter every time these two behemoths met them as they drove inside.
And then there’s Danny Green, now a three-time champion. This three-point specialist averaged eight points per outing and shot only 36 percent from the rainbow territory, but he was a solid defender who had championship experience. He may have been a bit of a letdown in the playoffs but during the regular season he played well enough and knocked down crucial shots when needed.
Avery Bradley is gone, too, but since he didn’t play with the team as they went into the bubble, I guess they figured he was dispensable. But remember he was part of the starting lineup for the regular season that got the Lakers the best record in the Western Conference.
Marc Gasol and Dennis Schroeder are solid performers and both provide additional offensive firepower but I think the Lakers got weaker defensively.
As of this writing, the Lakers sit atop the Western Conference with a 7-3 record but there’s a lot of basketball still to be played. I guess, we shall find out.
VERBATIM. “Cerrone McGregor and Alvarez McGregor. I’d absolutely destroy both these versions of myself.” --Conor McGregor on Instagram.
LAST ROUND. It’s on my uncle, Raul Quijano who celebrates his birthday this week. Cheers!