The 2012 NBA season is officially underway.
One of the betting favorites this year, the Los Angeles Lakers, opened up their season at home against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.
If I told you the Lakers shot a better percentage from the field and out rebounded the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavs, you would probably assume they came away with the victory.
You would be mistaken.
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It should have been an easy win for them.
But Dallas came out firing on all cylinders, led by point guard Darren Collison. They had six guys in double figures and received major contribution from their bench.
It was clear that the new-look Lakers have some work to do to get their team chemistry going. With the addition of eight new players to the roster and a totally new offensive scheme in place, there's going to be growing pains.
After the game, Dwight Howard admitted: "Just because we have a talented team it's not gonna just click. It takes time." Steve Nash added that the offense is a "work in progress."
There were some bright spots from the season opener, however.
Kobe Bryant was a game-time decision with a foot strain. He stated earlier in the day that he had about an 85% chance of playing, but knowing No. 24, it may have very well been 99%.
The Black Mamba did indeed suit up and scored 22 points while shooting 79% from the field. That's an immense improvement from the 43% rate he shot last year. With the addition of Nash, it's expected that Kobe will get lots of better looks.
I'd say he's off to a good start.
Another positive for the Lakers was the play of Pau Gasol. The Spaniard had game-high's in points (23), assists (6), and rebounds (13). While his field goal percentage wasn't that great, Pau showed aggressiveness offensively, which was something he lacked last season.
As for the new big man, Howard debuted with a double-double. He finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows for Superman though. He was horrendous from the free throw line, and ended up fouling out late in the game.
Of the Big 4, Nash probably contributed the least. The new field general tallied just 7 points and 4 assists. He did control the offense fairly well, he just wasn't able to get a good share of the stat sheet.
Although the numbers may not show it, the Lakers did not play very good defense for most of the night. They simply gave up too many easy buckets. Credit must also be given to the Mavs for executing and knocking their shots down.
But perhaps the straw that broke the Lakers' back was their free throw shooting.
The Purple & Gold made only 12 of 31 from the charity strike. Yes, they shot just 38.7% from the line. Howard was the biggest culprit, having only connected on 3 of his 14 attempts. I understand he is working with assistant coach Chuck Persons to develop a new, better shooting stroke, but still, 21% is unacceptable.
Honestly, it is inconceivable to me how so many professional basketball players cannot knock down free throws consistently. They are wide open and no one is defending them. It makes no sense.
But I digress.
It may be hard to believe, but the Lakers have now lost their last 11 games dating back to last year's playoffs and including the 2012 preseason. However, the Big 4 have only been on the court together for a few of those games.
It'd be silly for anyone to panic already.
At the end of the day, it's only 1 game. There are still 81 left in the regular season, and everyone knows -- it's not how you start, it's how you finish.
The only thing that's certain, is the Lakers won't be going 82-0 this year.