Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.
1. Should Jeremy Lin's minutes be maximized during times when Kobe Bryant is on the bench?
Holmes: Right now, the Lakers don't have too many scoring options on the perimeter (or in general, really), so when Bryant is out, it would be great to see Lin take it upon himself to shoulder more of the scoring load, to be more aggressive on that end. Taking that approach would no doubt boost his overall confidence, which appears to have been up and down early in the season as he adjusts to playing with Bryant.
Shelburne: Yes. The original plan was for Lin to come off the bench because he has been most successful in his NBA career playing in the more uptempo style the Lakers' second unit prefers. But that plan went out the window when Steve Nash was ruled out for the season with recurring back and nerve injuries. Instead Lin is the starter, and it's clear it's taking some time for him to learn how to play with Bryant. The key for Lin is aggressiveness. The Lakers want him to orchestrate their offense, not look for Bryant and then run the offense. The more times he is on the court where Bryant isn't even a thought in his mind, the more muscle memory he can develop in that role.
Markazi: Yes, but he needs to be aggressive and play to his strengths no matter if Bryant is on the court or not. What is happening now is Lin is a different player when Bryant's on the floor. He isn't as aggressive and isn't the player the Lakers need him to be when Bryant is controlling the ball. That needs to change if the Lakers are going to be anything more than a vehicle for Bryant to win the scoring title this season.
2. Was it necessary for Steve Nash to send an open letter to Lakers fans?
Holmes: It wasn't necessary, but it certainly didn't hurt. While there is obviously a huge difference between playing an NBA game and swinging a golf club, that video of Nash didn't look good publicly, as Lakers coach Byron Scott even admitted. Nash hadn't made any public comments since he was declared out for the season, and his letter helped provide some much-needed insight.
Shelburne: No, but I thought it was a nice touch. Nash hasn't exactly endeared himself to the fans in LA since his trade in July of 2012. He essentially has been hurt the entire time, and has built up very little equity with a group of fans who have been disappointed by the Lakers' run of bad luck and failures since he arrived. Explaining himself in the way did can't change that history, but it was a classy move by Nash to acknowledge that the videos he posted had offended some fans.
Markazi: I don't know if it was necessary but hopefully some of the more level-minded Lakers fans appreciated his openness and honesty. Nash has been crucified by Lakers fans for the disastrous trade the Lakers made for him two years ago and his subsequent inability to stay healthy. Injuries happen, and they happen more frequently and severely when you get past 40 so it shouldn't come as a shock that Nash wasn't able to play at high level until he was 41. It was the Lakers' choice to make that trade and they knew the risks they were taking when they made it.
3. Will Nick Young's eventual return make a big difference for the Lakers?
Holmes: Yes. With Nash out, Julius Randle sidelined and Wayne Ellington out indefinitely because of a death in the family, the Lakers are badly in need of help. They had only 10 active players in their loss to Memphis. Young will also help provide a scoring punch, and his shooting will help stretch the floor.
Shelburne: That depends on your definition of "a big difference." Will it make the Lakers a playoff team? No. Will it have a transformative effect on this team's fortunes? Probably not. But will it give the Lakers a reliable second scorer to take the burden off of Kobe, create more balance between the starting unit and the bench and bring some excitement back into the building? Absolutely.
Markazi: A big difference? No. But it will certainly help a team that could use another experienced player and someone to take the scoring load off of Bryant. Young is a fan favorite, a talented offensive player and one of the highlights in the locker room, so his presence on the court again will be a breath of fresh air for a team that could certainly use it. It might be a stretch to think that his return will drastically change the Lakers' fortunes this season, but it certainly can't hurt.