Expected to barrel straight toward the NBA Finals after acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, the Lakers are instead 9-11 on the year, good for 11th in the Western Conference. The season has already seen Mike D'Antoni replace Mike Brown as head coach and Kobe Bryant threaten his teammates with a little unwanted rough-housing.
In other words, this hasn't been what you would call an ideal start to the season. What other news is floating around this tumultuous team? Here is a look at all the latest reports and rumblings from Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant Tried to Get in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant's Head at Olympics?
In Bryant's world, the rivalry between the Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder never stops—not even as Olympic teammates. According to CSN Bay Area's Ric Bucher, Bryant "relentlessly" went after Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Team USA practices, telling them that OKC would not return to the NBA Finals:
Source says the Black Mamba talked relentless smack during the Olympics that the Thunder stars weren't going back to the Finals after the Lakers acquired Steve Nash and then added Dwight Howard right before the U.S. played Spain for the gold medal.
While this is conjecture, it's not hard to imagine Bryant laying the verbal lumber on his Olympic teammates. Mamba's competitive streak is legendary and his status was likely buoyed after the Lakers acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.
According to Bucher, Bryant did not stop at trash talk, either. He tried getting into Westbrook's head and cause division between he and Durant.
It hasn't worked this season, as the Thunder are 16-4 on the season and defeated Los Angeles on Friday night. Still, knowing Bryant, wouldn't you have wanted to be a fly on the wall during those practices?
Pau Gasol a Major Reason Why Steve Nash Came to Lakers?
Perhaps Pau Gasol still has value, after all. The oft-derided power forward has been the cause of an inordinate amount of scorn this season—especially since Mike D'Antoni took over as head coach.
Thought to be a solid fit in the run-and-gun system, the 32-year-old has found himself lost in the offense. Before going down with a knee injury, D'Antoni had regularly began sitting Gasol for long stretches and he had played fewer than 30 minutes in four of his past five appearances.
With that lack of playing time came a cabal of trade rumors. However, it's become clear in that time frame that Gasol's presence was integral to acquiring Steve Nash. Here is what the Lakers point guard told Doris Burke, according to ESPN's Arash Markazi:
Nash told Doris Burke that when he spoke to the Lakers about coming to L.A. he said "If Pau is staying, I want to come."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 8, 2012
Considering Nash hasn't touched the floor since Halloween, that means we can pretty much press the pause button on all Gasol trade rumors. The Lakers aren't going to alienate their point guard by shipping one of the biggest reasons he came to Los Angeles.
It's far more likely that the team keeps Gasol until Nash comes back so that it can see how the offense meshes. If Gasol and the Lakers still struggle, however, Mitch Kupchak may be forced into making some phone calls, after all.
Dwight Howard Seemingly Unconcerned About Lakers' Slow Start
While widespread panic has seemingly overtaken the Purple and Gold's fanbase, there's at least one star who seems relatively unfazed: Dwight Howard.
According to The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding, the Lakers center made that much clear when asked about the team's disappointing start:
Dwight mentioned "82 games" when asked about Lakers' 9-11 start: "This is not anybody's timetable but ours."— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) December 8, 2012
Though that quote was brought to you by the Kobe Bryant school of matter-of-factness, Howard saying he's unconcerned shouldn't shock anyone. A star player isn't going to out his team, even if it is crumbling under the weight of lofty preseason pressure.
What's more, Howard speaks the truth. The Lakers aren't missing the playoffs this season. They have far too much talent for that to be an even remote possibility.
Therefore, if the team is peaking come May and June, it will be all for the better. This was a roster constructed with the Larry O'Brien Trophy in mind—not a regular season pat on the back.
With three quarters of the season remaining, the Lakers will have plenty of time to right the ship. Whether that happens remains to be seen, though.
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