When ESPN ranked the Western Conference teams on Tuesday and put the Los Angeles Lakers as the 12th best squad, it drew plenty of interest and raised certain people’s eyebrows. Kobe Bryant was the first Lakers player to officially react to the article, but he didn’t do so with so many words.
Not so for reserve guard Nick Young, who signed on with the Lakers back in early July. He saw the article, tweeted his feelings of displeasure, then shared some more of his irritation with Arash Markazi of… ESPN Los Angeles:
“We’re ranked 12th in the league?” he said, slightly puzzled.
Well, not exactly, more like 12th in the West, right behind the New Orleans Pelicans to be exact.
“What? No! Out of teams in the West?” he said, now more upset than puzzled.
“That’s very disappointing,” Young said. “I’m upset just hearing that right now. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens this season. We’re going to be ranked higher than that by the end of the season.”
“I’ve been the underdog for so long,” Young said. “I’m upset and ready for the season. How are you going to be ranked that low with Kobe and Pau and Nash? There’s always going to be haters and we just have to keep proving them wrong.”
It’s understandable for Young to be surprised and agitated by what he’s hearing about his newest team. Players generally don’t take kindly to poor rankings of their own team (just ask DeMar DeRozan) when done by ESPN, especially when you have three future hall of famers (as he mentioned) on the same team the way these Lakers do.
The problem is, there is no guarantee that any of them will be able to play like they are future hall of famers. No one knows how Bryant will fare coming off major surgery (even Mitch Kupchak will agree to that notion, as you’ll find below). Steve Nash will turn 40 and struggled to fit in last season with the team due partly to injuries, but mostly because of the fact that he is a ball-dominant point guard who tried to play next to the most ball-dominant guard in the league. Pau Gasol looks to take more control in the post with Dwight Howard out of the picture, but he’ll still be playing for Mike D’Antoni, who generally didn’t love what the center had to offer. And yes, his natural position is at center, but will again be forced to play power forward with Chris Kaman now in the picture.
Even if all three of them come together to play great offense, none of them are capable of playing good defense at this point in their careers. With Howard gone, who is going to direct the defense? Kurt Rambis is good, but he’s no miracle worker (just ask Jonny Flynn). The Lakers might not be the fourth worst team in the West, but the conference is more stacked than ever before. It would actually be a surprise if they don’t struggle to make the playoffs in the upcoming season, given the circumstances.
Onto other news from around the league: