EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The road to 82-0 and the four-game sweeping victory in The Finals began Friday with the Lakers tempering expectations, noting that, by the way, it could take a little time to come together with Steve Nash new, Dwight Howard new and coming off back surgery, and coach Mike Brown meshing parts of the Princeton offense with some carryover sets from 2011-12.
The much-needed reality check after adding both Nash and Howard in an unexpected summer haul came as the new season opened with the related reality that the Lakers frenzy is big as ever. The turnout for media day at the training facility was probably the largest in years, although at least not the biggest circus in years, nothing like when The Artist Formerly Known as Ron Artest arrived and Lamar Odom was newly married to Khloe Kardashian, prompting new, unfortunate levels of hysteria. This was at least mostly basketball, plus obligatory lobs to newcomers about how they have been received by fans.
(Turn away, Magic fans.)
“I’m just so blessed to be in this situation,” Howard responded.
It was particularly important basketball talk because the Lakers will almost certainly have to come together during the regular season, not the preferred timeline of training camp and exhibition games, because there is no firm sign Howard will play before opening night. Nash is going from a long Phoenix run of pick-and-roll and fast breaks to a learning curve. His backup, Steve Blake, can’t practice yet because of a foot injury.
“Probably from the outside, it appears it’s going to be a cinch: We’ve got a bunch of great players who will come together and win 60-something games and go in as a contender,” Nash said of the transition for an entire roster. “But it’s going to a big challenge for us. With so many personalities and dominant players, to try and find our cohesion and understanding, accepting roles, sacrificing. It’s going to be a challenge for the coaches to find the best way for us to play. And it’s going to be a challenge. Having played one way, more or less, for eight years, to come in and play a different way with different players is going to be a big challenge. But it’s one that I’m thrilled to be a part of and open-minded as I go into this.”
Said Brown, noting the inevitable adjustment period could take time: “Yeah. I think it will. Don’t get me wrong. Everybody’s going to wish that it happened yesterday, which is fine. But that’s what I explained as part of the journey to our guys. I said, ‘There are going to be some peaks and valleys throughout the course of the season and how we approach and what our response is to those highs and lows throughout the course of the season, that’s going to determine whether or not we reach our ultimate goal of being a champion or how we evolve into a team.’
“There’s going to be some bumps and bruises that we have to deal with in our own right knowing that, hey, the Western Conference champs, that’s the Oklahoma City Thunder. The NBA champs, that’s the Miami Heat. Nothing is given to us, and we have to respect that.”
Howard, recovering from back surgery, would not a put a timetable on when he might make his Lakers debut, including whether he would be ready for the season opener Oct. 30 against the Mavericks in Los Angeles.
“I’m getting better every day, getting stronger every day,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to that day where I’m 100 percent. Until then, I’m going to keep training.”