Lakers new guard Steve Nash of Canada smiles as he walks past Kobe Bryant during NBA media day for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team in Los Angeles

NBA season preview: L.A. Lakers

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Last Season: Failure. For a team that measures success in terms of championships, especially when it has enough talent on paper to compete at that level, 2012 just wasn’t good enough.

The Lakers struggled with depth and exited the playoffs in the second round for the second straight year, this time to a younger, more athletic, and more explosive Oklahoma City Thunder squad. This came after going a longer-than-planned seven games in the first round against a talented, yet inexperienced Nuggets team that shouldn’t have been able to push L.A. that far.

Key Departures: There were departures, though not many close observers of this Lakers team would choose the word “key” to describe them. Ramon Sessions departed for a bigger role in Charlotte, Matt Barnes switched to the less glamorous locker room down the Staples Center hallway, Josh McRoberts is now in Orlando, and Troy Murphy is just gone.

The Lakers did, of course, lose their All-Star center from a season ago in Andrew Bynum, but they acquired a replacement whom they hope will be one of the keys to returning to championship relevance.

Key Additions: Here’s where things start to get interesting. L.A. helped end our long national Dwightmare by trading for one of the game’s top-five players in Dwight Howard, giving up Bynum in the process. Howard for Bynum on its own is an improvement on paper, but not one large enough to tilt the championship odds immediately in the Lakers’ favor. The acquisition of Steve Nash, however — a two-time MVP, a master conductor of the offense and one of the game’s best shooters — might have done exactly that.

Antawn Jamison was added for some scoring assistance off the bench, and backup two-guard Jodie Meeks should provide some productivity when Kobe Bryant is getting some rest.

Three keys to the Lakers season:

1) Kobe thriving without the ball in his hands: Nash is one of the best point guards in the game, but to do what he does best, he’ll need the ball to open possessions. With Howard and Pau Gasol on the floor at the same time, there should be a number of successful offensive possessions where Bryant doesn’t even see the basketball. Obviously, this will be a major adjustment. Will Bryant choose to adapt to the new offense — one that, much like the Triangle, features motion and multiple options at every turn — or will he resist and revert to old habits of forcing isolation situations with the shot clock winding down, while his teammates stand around and watch? There’s a time for that, certainly, but with all of the weapons on this year’s roster, those situations should be the exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself.

2) Will the bench be enough? A starting five featuring Bryant, Howard, Nash, Gasol, and Metta World Peace should provide plenty of punch on both sides of the ball to win on most nights. But regular season achievements are not why this core was assembled, nor will finishing the regular season with the league’s best record mean anything if the starters are gassed for the playoffs. Bryant and Nash need to save themselves somewhat for the postseason, and limiting their minutes will only be possible if the bench doesn’t blow huge leads which force the team’s veteran stars to sub back in early in the fourth quarters of games which should have already been decided.

3) The correct utilization of Pau Gasol: From a numbers standpoint, Gasol appeared to be every bit as effective as he’d been in his seasons in L.A. that resulted in championships. But to those who watched the majority of the team’s contests, Gasol seemed uncomfortable, under-utilized, and out of place in head coach Mike Brown’s attempt at an offense.

The Lakers need to find a way to maximize Gasol’s talents, and the new Princeton offense that the team is implementing this season should go a long way in doing so. Gasol has great court awareness and is able to make the smart pass, but is also a deft scorer — both on the low block, and from mid-range distance on the perimeter. The team needs to recognize this, and perhaps watch some film of the gold medal game of this past summer’s Olympics to truly see what a force Gasol can be when given the right opportunities.

What Lakers fans should fear: Two words: Mike Brown. L.A.’s head coach used the lockout-shortened season as a constant excuse last year, lamenting the lack of practice time available for him to get his new systems installed. Well, no such excuse will be available this season, as Brown has had all summer and a full training camp to design and implement sets which will maximize his team’s talents.

The team added former NBA head coaches in Eddie Jordan and Bernie Bickerstaff to assist Brown, who has always been described as a defense-first coach. If the defense is top-five in the league, that’s great. But last year’s Lakers were middle-of-the-pack defensively, and the offense never gained the necessary cohesion to contend deep into the postseason. With all of the talent assembled for the 2012-13 run, the blame will undoubtedly fall on Brown’s shoulders if he’s unable to bring this group to the level of champions.

Prediction: Dwight Howard is an upgrade over Andrew Bynum, but the basketball IQ and shooting prowess of Steve Nash is what pushes this team over the top. Anyone predicting anything other than a trip to the Finals for this stacked Lakers squad is being delusional at worst, or contrarian at best. The Thunder return essentially all of their important pieces, and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be waiting in the East. But the amount of talent in the Lakers’ starting lineup is too much to dismiss, and they should ultimately take home the title if things go anywhere near as planned.

Liquor company Jägermeister says Bucks’ new logo is too similar to their own

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MILWAUKEE (AP) A German company that makes a popular liqueur is not raising a shot glass to the Milwaukee Bucks’ redesigned logo.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Jägermeister has filed formal opposition with an appeal board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office about the registration of the logo.

The company contends it “has established exclusive rights in the DEER HEAD Marks through use in commerce in the United States” going back to 1968. It cites numerous reasons to oppose registration for the NBA team, including the possibility that people might confuse the two companies or believe they are connected or affiliated.

Both logos feature forward-looking deer with large antlers inside a circle or partial circle in about the same proportions.

Neither the Bucks nor Jägermeister returned messages seeking comment.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

Carmelo on NBA CBA opt-out deadline: “I’m skeptical of something getting done”

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After months of reports that the NBA and the NBAPA would be able to reach an agreement on a new CBA, it appears the two sides have hit a snag.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN is reporting that the league and the player’s union are unlikely to agree to terms before Thursday’s deadline for the players to opt-out of the current CBA.

Via ESPN:

“I’m skeptical of something getting done,” Anthony, who is the vice president of the NBPA told ESPN after the New York Knicks practiced Saturday in Los Angeles. “Do I think something could happen by the 15th? Yeah I think something could happen. But I think this kind of put a dent in conversations.

“We had something so close. We were supposed to have a deal done weeks ago, and for this to happen at the 25th hour is tough.”

This is not good news for the talks, which have reportedly gone smoothly thus far and for good reason: money.

There’s more of it to be had all around for both sides, and as Basketball Related Income (or BRI) rises, so has the NBA salary cap.

Despite this unfortunate news, it’s not all doom and gloom for NBA fans hoping to avoid a lockout. While Dec. 15 is the opt-out date for the players and they will almost certainly take it, the current CBA doesn’t expire until June of 2017.

That means there won’t be any kind of work stoppage for the 2016-17 NBA season, but both sides would have a hard date of June 30 before ostensibly triggering one.

The good news is, hopefully, that since the two sides have already been working hard on a deal that they would be close on the terms they need to settle over the following six months.

A big question is apparently whether they can still make Thursday’s deadline, as Anthony has reportedly said it would take significant discussion time and constant work to finish the deal as it stands.

No word yet on what the issue is between the league and the players, as Anthony declined to elaborate.

Rumor: Celtics, Blazers potential trade destinations for Mavericks C Andrew Bogut

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The Dallas Mavericks have one of the worst records in the NBA at just 5-17. A trade to Texas back in July was put in the works in order for the Golden State Warriors to clear enough cap space to sign Kevin Durant, but not much has come of Bogut’s time in Big D thanks to multiple other issues with the roster.

Bogut, 32, is now a potential trade target for playoff teams looking to bolter their front line, and according to a report from ESPN’s Marc Stein, both the Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers have either shown interest or make a natural fit.

Via ESPN:

Boston has already emerged as a team interested in trading for Dallas center Andrew Bogut, and here’s another team that makes sense: Portland. The Mavericks have yet to make Bogut available for potential deals, per ESPN’s own Tim MacMahon, but the Blazers are a natural suitor given their clear need for a defensive anchor at the rim as the league’s 30th-ranked defense as of Friday morning.

Boston makes a lot of sense for Bogut given their high aspirations for the season and the fact that they are the 7th-worst rebounding team in the NBA despite adding Al Horford to their roster this offseason.

The Celtics already have an excellent net rating on the season, but the space added from Bogut’s screens on offense would no doubt help propel them forward as they battle for a Top 3 spot in the Eastern Conference with the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Portland, meanwhile, needs Bogut’s skill set in a way that can’t be stressed enough. The Trail Blazers are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, something Bogut could definitely help.

In 2015-16, with a similar roster, the Blazers were a top offensive rebounding team. This season they’re one of the worst on the glass, a major contributing factor to their early struggles.

Again, Bogut would help them, but GM Neil Olshey also isn’t one to make moves to upset the chemistry of his team unless absolutely require to — see Arron Afflalo in 2014-15.

If the Blazers pull the trigger on a trade for Bogut, it might also give us a better indicator of what is happening with Festus Ezeli, who Portland signed to a 2-year deal this summer. Ezeli has been recovering from knee surgery, but the team has been notably quiet his return as of late. If he isn’t able to return in time for the Blazers to stay in the playoff hunt, Olshey could warm to a Bogut trade if the price is right.

There are a few other teams that make sense for a Bogut trade: the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, and Milwaukee Bucks are all teams either trying to head to the next level or galvanize their place as a playoff team.

None of these teams save for the Blazers are panicking yet, so we might have to wait until 2017 for a swap given that Bogut is now injured. The Mavericks C suffered a bone bruise in his right knee that will cause him to miss significant time in December.

For any team looking to trade for an aging Bogut, injury concerns are a real issue. He famously missed the end of the 2016 NBA Finals with a bone bruise in his left knee, and has played in 70 or more games just three times in his 12-year career.

When it comes to a Bogut trade, it will come down to the last micron as teams weight the risk vs. reward as the Mavericks start to suss out their asking price.

Indeed, we’ve seen for trades for players in Bogut’s position get a little pricey. Portland rented Afflalo for just 25 games at a price of Will Barton, Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver, and a protected first-round pick. Cleveland sent out a protected first-round pick, a second-round pick, Jared Cunningham, and Anderson Varejao for Channing Frye in February.

Bogut’s statistics, meanwhile, are notably down but it’s not immediately clear how much of that is due to the Mavericks overall poor play, or if that would even matter to receiving teams. His per-100 possession stats on points and blocks are down, and his net rating is terrible. It would be easy to dismiss that, rightly, to the Dallas roster collectively. Where teams really need him — rebounding — Bogut is stellar, and he’s grabbed a career-high 21.6 rebounds per-100 possessions.

When or if Dallas gets a deal together is anyone’s guess. Dirk Nowitzki has been dealing with Achilles soreness that has kept him sidelined, but he is slated to return before the end of 2016. The Mavericks mainstay has said he wants to keep playing and fighting, and although Dallas are in a huge hole, trading a useful frontline player like Bogut might betray some of Nowitzki’s confidence from the team that they are at least trying to give him reason to play through injury.

Patrick Beverley shuts down Westbrook on final play, bowls through own coach (VIDEO)

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Houston Rockets G Patrick Beverley is known around the NBA for being a dogged defender. His skill set was on full display on Friday night, where Beverley shut down Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook on a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

It all started early in the matchup, when Beverley — notorious for getting under the skin of both Westbrook and other NBA opponents — flopped with some serious gusto just 36 seconds into the first quarter.

Via Twitter:

The game continued like this, but the real highlight of Beverley’s defensive night was stopping Westbrook — who dropped his 7th straight triple-double — on an isolation play with six seconds left in the fourth quarter.

With the ball on the left garden spot, Westbrook gave a couple of dribble hesitation moves to Beverley, then tried to rise up for the go-ahead bucket.

Beverley was right up on him, and forced an airball from Westbrook:

The Rockets guard was so happy about the stop and the eventual win that he celebrated a little too enthusiastically with Houston coach Mike D’Antoni.

Going for a chest bump, Beverley wound up blasting through his own coach: