By Cliff Chang, 14, Walnut HS
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Even with the additions of Nash and Howard, Kobe Bryant is, and always will be, Cliff's favorite NBA player.

I have been a Lakers fan since 2008, the year Kobe Bryant won MVP. It was really fun the next few seasons to watch a Laker game on TV, cheering when Kobe made a game-winning shot, or when Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum made a big-time play.

This season, the games will be even more exciting because of the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard trades. Bynum is gone and I will miss him, but Howard, the best center in the NBA, replaces him. I look forward to watching Nash and Gasol perform pick and rolls, and Howard grab the rebound off of a Kobe miss and dunk the ball. But the one thing I will love the best is that the Lakers will not be losing anymore. Last season is history and this season, with four superstars on one team, the Lakers will again be champions.

After 2010, I sadly saw the Lakers fall from championship contention. Kobe was the only one on the team who did something and most of the bench players who contributed to their championships in 2009 and 2010 had left. During the 2011 season, I still watched Laker games on TV, but it was frustrating when they could not make a wide-open shot, or when they refused to play defense. I could not stop screaming at the players. I doubted the Lakers’ chances of winning a championship in the next few years. They just had neither the talent or desire to win anymore.

I was really mad when this year’s draft came, because teams like the Miami Heat, which just won a championship, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, which played against Miami for the title, had first-round picks. But the Lakers, with a terrible bench squad, traded their first-round pick, leaving them with only the 60th pick. That crushed my hope that the Lakers would improve.

Photo by Sydney Chou, 16, Sonora HS

But now, the Lakers have made enough moves to make up for the past two seasons. When I heard that Nash would be a free agent this offseason, I never thought he’d join the Lakers; after all, the Lakers and Phoenix Suns (Nash’s former team) are enemies. But after my brother told me that Nash agreed to come to L.A., I could not believe it. I kept thinking to myself the following days in summer school, “THE LAKERS GOT STEVE NASH!!!!” I knew I was supposed to be focusing on history, but the trade was so exciting and my class so boring, that all I could think about was the new and improved Lakers.

Then, when talks about Howard demanding a trade came up, I really hoped the Lakers would land him. I kept searching for updates on the trade, and after I got back from a trip this summer, I learned that Howard was traded. For real? Howard is on the Lakers now? Wow. Once the deal was finalized, I wanted to see the faces of all those OKC and Miami fans and say “ha ha.”

Nash and Howard give the Lakers advantages. Nash, a two-time MVP and five-time league leader in assists, brings his passing ability to L.A. He can create shot opportunities for his teammates, especially Gasol and Howard. However, the best thing about acquiring Nash is how he fits the team perfectly. Nash couldn’t care less about how much he shoots, and that is why he is the best match for Kobe, Gasol and Howard.

Dwight Howard needs to remember that this is Kobe’s team

Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, which means he will swat shots close to the rim and create fast break opportunities. However, Howard is used to being the star of the team. Now that he’s on the Lakers, he has to realize that the Lakers are Kobe’s team, not his yet. If he cannot accept that, then this will be Kobe versus Shaq all over again. Yes Kobe and Shaq won three titles together, but their feuding caused Shaq and Coach Phil Jackson to leave. Howard may be the best center in the NBA, but Kobe is the best player in the NBA, and Howard must realize that.

However, my biggest fear about this Lakers roster is its bench. The backcourt is weak. The only bench players for Nash are Chris Duhon, Steve Blake and Darius Morris (who is currently inactive) and the only bench players for Kobe are Jodie Meeks, Darius Johnson-Odom and Andrew Goudelock. When they played in the 2012 Summer League, a sort of “tryout” for rookies and not-so-good players, they usually got blown out by 20 to 30 points per game. Those statistics make me nervous about whether L.A. can beat good three-point shooting teams like the Heat and Thunder.

This season not only has new players, but also a semi-new coach. I believe Mike Brown did an OK job coaching last season (his first with the Lakers); the Lakers won the division title. But now that Howard is a Laker, Brown might not be the best coach for the team. Howard got his former coach and former general manager fired. If Brown is not good enough to withstand the pressure put on him by Kobe, Howard and Nash, this season will not be as easy as I expect.

But I still have faith. Neither Nash nor Howard has won a championship before, so they have the desire to win. If Brown turns into a worse coach than he was, Kobe has learned to be a coach himself, proving so when he was injured and out at the end of last season.

The NBA season begins Oct. 30 with the Lakers playing the Dallas Mavericks, and I can’t wait.