NBA lockout: Story lines Lakers will miss in early December
NBA Commissioner David Stern may have heated up his rhetoric toward the players union when he predicted a "nuclear winter" and acknowledged the 2011-2012 season to be in jeopardy.
But he never formally canceled games. He just allowed the calendar to do it for him. Regardless of whether or not the players union would formally reject the owners' latest proposal, the season wouldn't start until Dec. 15 with a 72-game schedule. The union's disbandment will likely prompt the NBA to ax more games, but for now, there's already enough story lines the Lakers will miss through mid-December that could've kept fans entertained. That included contests at Utah (Dec. 2), vs. Portland (Dec. 4), at Houston (Dec. 6), at Miami (Dec. 8), at Charlotte (Dec. 9), vs. Orlando (Dec. 11) and vs. Toronto (Dec. 13).
Below would've been some of the top story lines.
1. Can the Lakers stop Gordon Hayward? The last time the Lakers met the Jazz, the purple & gold had no answers for the former Butler product. Hayward impressed Kobe Bryant enough with his 22-point performance on nine-of-14 shooting, including a one-handed dunk, that the Lakers star compared the rookie guard to former Jazz standout Jeff Hornacek. It would've remained to be seen whether the Lakers had enough speed to counter Hayward.
2. Brandon Roy in either a Portland or Lakers uniform? Had the owners and players union finalized their deal, it's possible the Trail Blazers would have let go Roy through an amnesty clause, prompting many teams, including the Lakers, to pursue his services. So perhaps the Lakers-Blazers game would've marked a reunion against Roy's former team. Had Portland kept Roy, it would've provided a good litmus test for how Metta World Peace's defense stands this season.
3. The Lakers can redeem themselves against Miami. No more excuses this time. The Lakers lost twice last season to the Heat, and acted like the outcome proved insignificant since it was just a regular-season game. Chokers in the NBA Finals or not, Miami still proves superior to the Lakers and would've returned even more rejuvenated and focused. This would've been a prime opportunity for the Lakers to make a statement.
4. Plenty of Dwight Howard intrigue. Whether or not the Lakers actually have the finances to secure Howard next off-season remains another issue. But that's not going to stop the speculation one bit when Howard visits Staples Center and whether he gives off signals he'd like to don the purple and gold. Andrew Bynum takes his matchup against elite centers seriously, and would want to prove his growth in this one.
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, and Miami Heat forward LeBron James would've squared off on Dec. 8. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times