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Column: Trouble in Tinseltown

Friday, November 2, 2012

It's been two games and already Kobe Bryant is telling the Lakers' critics to "shut up."

You can't really blame the critics - after watching the Lakers' offense AND defense in the first two games it's hard to tell which is worse. Clearly L.A.'s 0-8 preseason record was very indicative of where they are as a team in Mike Brown's second year as head coach.

The additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash have only complicated things for Brown as he struggles to develop a suitable offense for one of the league's most athletic and talented teams.

Howard is coming off a back surgery and admits there are days when it's sore and stiff, while Nash is 38 years old and has already been sidelined with a leg contusion.

The good news is there's 80 games left. People will point to the Heat's struggles when LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came together two years ago and started the season 9-8 before "clicking."

With three or four potential Hall of Fame players on the roster this season, it's hard to believe the Lakers won't put it together and be a major contender for the NBA title this year. Unfortunately, there are plenty of concerns with Brown's system and style to make people wonder just how deep in the playoffs Los Angeles will go.

Oklahoma City, who lost in the Finals last year, traded Sixth Man of the Year James Harden days before the season. Harden wanted to be a team's No. 1 option when his contract was up after this season and his refusal of OKC's extension offer cemented that notion.

The Thunder were quick to trade him to the Houston Rockets to get something in return for the explosive scorer. Harden was just as quick to sign a 5-year, $80 million extension with the Rockets to become their No. 1-scoring threat. He showed what he's capable of as a leading man in the opener, producing a monster stat line of 37 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, four steals and two blocks.

OKC will miss Harden, but with two legitimate stars already, they should contend. If you form a "Big 3," like in Miami or Boston, at least one of the players must step back and play a role. Harden has done that - coming off the bench - since he's come into the league. Now he's ready to step out on his own and he knew he couldn't do that alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Now we'll see if Harden is ready to be a major star. His debut was a good start.

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Zach Jevne
Real Sports Talk
Zach joined the Daily Reporter staff as sports editor in March 2011. He is originally from Decorah, Iowa. He played baseball at University of Northern Iowa and studied multimedia journalism at Simpson College.