Oklahoma City Thunder: Are the Lakers contenders or pretenders?

Los Angeles comes to Oklahoma City with a 9-10 record and a host of issues. While the jury is still out, there's no question this team thus far is not a squad most envisioned the Lakers would be when they reloaded in August.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 6, 2012
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photo - Fans greet Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) as he walks off the court after an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Hornets in New Orleans, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to surpass 30,000 points. The Lakers won 103-87. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) ORG XMIT: LAGH107
Fans greet Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) as he walks off the court after an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Hornets in New Orleans, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to surpass 30,000 points. The Lakers won 103-87. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) ORG XMIT: LAGH107

“They're a very good team; a lot of talented players and we know what they're capable of,” said Sefolosha. “So we're definitely not going to look at it saying, ‘Oh, we're playing against a team that's down right now.' We've just got to come out and focus on us.”

The formation of the Lakers' revamped super team overshadows the fact that they went through an offseason overhaul that included the addition of six other newcomers in addition to Nash and Howard. Many of those players, namely Chris Duhon, Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, have had to figure out how they fit while acclimating to the same growing pains as the stars.

Through it all, the Lakers shockingly have assembled virtually identical production as they did in the 2009-10 season, their last championship season.

L.A.'s average points, opponent points, assists, steals, field goal percentage and point differential are nearly the same as three years ago. They're averaging more steals and blocks this season, while also holding opponents to a lower field goal percentage.

The biggest differences are turnovers and free throws. The Lakers are averaging three more turnovers this year than in 2009-10 and are shooting a league-worst 66.7 percent from the foul line compared to 76.5 percent three years ago.

So who are these Lakers?

Contenders or pretender?

“I think if you look at teams' records going into games I think you're looking at the wrong things,” Brooks cautioned. “We've always approached every game as their team does a lot of good things and we have to stop them from doing those things. And we have to do the things well for us to win.

“And the records; any given night, any team can beat any team in this league. It's who they're going to be at the end of the season (and that) is going to be a very good team, one of the best in the league.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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