After the Los Angeles Lakers did their annual meet and greet with the media on Saturday, it was back to business with the start of training camp. Just 48 hours into camp, Lakers point guard Steve Nash already notices that team chemistry is better than last year when championship aspirations were pulsating when he and All-Star center Dwight Howard joined the team.
As the story goes, the 2012-13 season that was supposed to yield a championship only yielded frustration as the Lakers were riddled with injuries, the firing of former coach Mike Brown followed by the hiring of Mike D’Antoni, and on-court chemistry issues. Though the team managed to sneak into the playoffs as a seventh seed, they were quickly dispatched by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
The offseason didn’t get off to a good start either with the defection of Howard to the Houston Rockets during free agency. With a limited budget to work with due to salary cap restrictions and luxury taxes, the Lakers were forced to get creative with a number of one-year contract signings.
Nonetheless, by Nash’s account, the chemistry problems that plagued them last year may not be an issue this season.
"It feels good," Nash told ESPN. "Last year was tough. Just from the start, it was hard to feel a lot of positive energy. It always seemed like a challenge. Whereas this year, it feels a little bit more like a team. I know it's early and who knows how good we'll be, but the early energy and vibe is really positive."
Of course, winning will be the primary determinant of whether the team’s chemistry is as effective as Nash’s intuition says. Without a healthy Kobe Bryant who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in April and may not be ready to begin the regular season, consistent winning will be difficult.
However, the Lakers will undergo a full training camp under Coach D’Antoni so more time will be devoted towards building team chemistry. Rather than fully implement Coach D’Antoni’s run-and-gun style of basketball, the Lakers were forced to try new offensive strategies in order to fit their personnel last season.
"We never really ran Mike's system last year," said Nash. "It was more a hybrid. I think that's part of finding an identity is that through personnel, no training camp and very little practice time with all the injuries, it was hard to get Mike's system going. It was hard to find that identity. So we already are starting to form an understanding of what he wants and how we're going to play, which is greater than last year."