November 9, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) looks on as center Jordan Hill (27) stretches his neck after he was fouled in the first half of the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Behind Enemy Lines - Los Angeles Lakers

Behind Enemy Lines is a preview of NBA teams around the league and how the match-up with the Clippers. We’ll start it off with the rivals from down the hall in the Lakers.

2012-13 Results: 45-37 (7th in West, First-round exit)

Meetings w/ LAC:

October 29 – vs Clippers (TNT)
January 10 – at Clippers (ESPN)
March 6 – vs Clippers (TNT)
April 6 – at Clippers (ABC)

Who’s Out: Dwight Howard (FA), Antawn Jamison (FA), Earl Clark (FA), Metta World Peace (Amnesty)

Who’s In: Nick Young (FA), Wesley Johnson (FA), Chris Kaman (FA), Shawne Williams (FA), Ryan Kelly (Draft)

Expected Starters:

PG – Steve Nash
SG – Kobe Bryant
SF – Wesley Johnson
PF – Jordan Hill
C – Pau Gasol

Five Thoughts Going into 2013-14:

1. Can Kobe Bryant remain himself?
I’m not sure how Bryant returns from this achilles injury. If he was Derrick Rose’s age I’d be more comfortable making a prediction on his return. Instead Bryant is sneaking up on age 36 while trying to return in record time from one of the more damaging tears the body can suffer. Bryant hasn’t averaged less than 24 points the 1999-00 season when he played alongside Shaq. That seems like the proper range he’ll drop too. We’ll see how Bean responds.

2. Finally, Pau Gasol is back to his “normal” position.
This has been my gripe with the Lakers organization for the past few years. Sure injuries have had a large effect on the way Pau Gasol has played since the Lakers won the NBA championship in 2010, but being out of position mattered also. Can he play the power forward? Sure. Pair him up with a good big man and you have yourself one of the best one-two combo’s in the league. But he’s better at the center. Since Andrew Bynum got a prominent role in the Lakers offense, Gasol’s value has dropped considerably.

According to 82games.com, Gasol was better at the center position last season posting a PER of 22.0 per-48 minutes compared to a PER of 15.4 as the power forward. This has been a trend for the past few seasons and with majority of the post touches going Gasol’s way this year look for that trend to continue.

3. One of these one-year deals have to work out right?
Shawn Williams. Nick Young. Wesley Johnson. Chris Kaman. Jordan Farmar. Xavier Henry. Those are all players the Lakers signed on a one-year deal this off-season. It makes sense rather than giving these mediocre guys long-time contracts which would ruin their chances to strike big when the summer of 2014 hits. But someone has to stick right? I’m going with Wesley Johnson and Jordan Farmar as the honorable mention.

The former lottery pick (selected ahead of Paul George, Demarcus Cousins, Larry Sanders, etc.) in Johnson hasn’t improved as a player since entering the league in 2010. Being young means he still has a chance in this league. He may not turn into what you would want a fourth overall pick to be, but he has a chance to be a solid 3-and-D player in this league. Playing alongside Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol may be able to give him the jump he’s needed the last few years.

4. Will Pau Gasol be moved at the deadline?
Gasol will make a whopping $19 million this season. Usually mid-level teams stay away from that kind of money, but with his talent he could be sought after. Most of it has to do with Gasol’s contract expiring after the 2012-13 season. We see deals such as this done all the time. Gasol is worth assets going forth. And with several disgruntled stars (Lamarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love) one of those teams could make a move for the Spanish big man. Also if this one-year experiment goes wrong the Lakers would try their best to be a bad team and receive a higher pick in the lottery. Moving Gasol does just that. This franchise has no clear plan going ahead, so don’t be surprised when these rumors spark up again.

5. Mike D’Antoni’s set to catch the short end of the stick
No matter what D’Antoni can do this year he’s as good as gone come 2014. No coach in the league has to deal with what he’s going through for a second straight year: being the head coach that was chosen over THE Phil Jackson. We’ve heard the “We Want Phil” chants when the Lakers struggled last year. Expect those to continue. If Mike can’t get this make-shift roster to perform at an adequate level he may be gone by the All-Star break. And if he gets this team to the playoffs? He’ll be gone this summer as they attempt to coddle their superstar of the future. He’s an extremely easy target that could become the scapegoat of a forgotten season that may be in store for Los Angeles.

When the two teams from Los Angeles meet at the Staples Center, it’s always an exciting matchup so make sure to grab your Clippers vs. Lakers tickets today.  Tickets for the October 29th meeting begin at only $82.

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Tags: Behind Enemy Lines Feature Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Clippers Los Angeles Lakers NBA NBA Preview Pau Gasol

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