1.) After a big offseason, which new addition are you more looking forward to, Dwight or Nash?
Needless to say, I'm hugely excited about both, but Dwight Howard is what I'm most looking forward to about this season. Nash will be loads of fun to watch. His style of play and mastery of halfcourt offense are beautiful things, and of course he's a ridiculously likeable guy off the court too. But in my mind the concept of the dominant big man is the core of the Lakers' historic identity. No disrespect at all to Magic or Kobe or Jerry West, but the Lakers' tradition of era-defining centers - starting with Mikan and running through Wilt, Kareem and Shaq - is a big part of what I love about the organization. Dwight's induction into that fraternity feels like the past, present and future coming together.
2.) There's been some big name criticism of Mike Brown running the Princeton offense. Is it warranted or are guys like Shaq and Barkley reading too much into pre-season?
They're certainly reading too much into the preseason, but that doesn't mean their basic point is wrong. Smart Laker fans differ about this but I'm a Princeton offense skeptic. When you're starting with as much offensive talent and experience as the Lakers have, installing a new and complicated system strikes me as possibly more trouble than it's worth. Why not just let Nash run pick-and-rolls with Dwight and let Kobe and Pau do their thing? And why adopt a system that takes the ball out of a point guard's hands when that point guard is the one and only Steve Nash? I don't know, it seems like an overly fussy move. But there's a lot we still don't know about how the offense will really look, so I'm not worked up about it yet.
3.) Charting how Laker fans have felt about Pau Gasol during his time in LA is a fascinating topic all its own. After a sub-par year as a Laker followed by a phenomenal summer with the Spanish National team, what is Pau's role in the offense this year? (Tangent: I love Pau. He is one of the greatest pivot men ever. He's really a center but Shaq basically forced the reclassification of a whole generation of big men who didn't want to guard him)
Pau's role is another thing about the offense we don't yet have a good handle on. He and Andrew Bynum looked good together at times but there's a fair amount of lineup data indicating it wasn't an efficient offensive tandem. The hope and expectation is that Pau and Dwight will be a better fit. When people think of the Lakers' big four stars they typically imagine them on the floor all at the same time, but what I'm interested to see is how Mike Brown mixes and matches the stars with the bench pieces. If Pau's on the court with Dwight, Kobe and Nash I suspect he'll get marginalized, but there might be some cool small-ball lineups with Nash at the point, Pau at center and shooters like Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison spacing the floor. Pau himself probably doesn't yet know how and where he'll get his looks. It's something that'll evolve as the season goes on, hopefully in a positive direction.
4.) Lakers were 0-8 in preseason. Should we read anything into that?
Well, I guess you never want to be 0-8 in the preseason. Personally I'm not super concerned about it. Because of caution over Dwight's back and a desire to keep old guys rested, the core Laker rotation was basically never intact for any of the eight games. The team that was on the court just isn't the team we'll see in the regular season. It does look like it might take the new roster longer to cohere than we originally expected, but I think the preseason record is something that'll be forgotten pretty quickly.
5.) Your team has an eclectic bench. Who are the key components and will any of the rookies see minutes?
We should definitely see some Robert Sacre. He's been a nice surprise in the preseason, and with Dwight and Jordan Hill on the mend from injuries the Lakers will need him to soak up early minutes at the center position. When Dwight and Hill are both back to 100% and getting their full complement of playing time, Sacre will sit.
The Lakers' bench has just one important job this season: be decent enough that Mike Brown can limit the starters' minutes and keep them fresh for the playoffs. The reserves don't need to be amazing, just adequate. A few of them do have specialized skills that should prove tactically useful. Hill's a good guy to throw into the game when the team needs an energy jolt. Devin Ebanks can be a quality situational defender depending on the matchup. Jodie Meeks will be counted on to shore up the Lakers' appalling three-point numbers. Right now people are down on this group because they didn't look good in the preseason, but I'm still confident they'll be at least a moderate improvement on recent Laker benches.
6.) With the Thunder trading Harden, I am of the opinion the Lakers become the favorite to win the West. With such a short window with this group (Pau's contract ending, Nash being older, Kobe having to go battle the Space Jam monsters) is anything short of a title disappointing?
Absolutely. This is one of the most star-powered teams in NBA history. The Buss family has spared no expense putting it together. It's a team constructed with the goal of overpowering the rest of the league and returning the Lakers to the throne. The realization that we're in the final stage of Kobe's career only adds to the urgency. This season in Lakerdom it's championship or bust, and everyone understands that.
Thanks for your time, we'll talk again soon.