Below is the ninth in a series previewing the storylines surrounding each player on the Lakers’ roster for the 2013-14 season. This post focuses on Lakers backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks.
1. How will Meeks’ ankle hold up? Like with many on the Lakers’ roster, Meeks success this season could mainly hinge on well he rehabbed from an injury over the offseason. Meeks suffered a partial ligament tear in his left ankle. Meeks estimated in his exit interview in early May that he’d become fully healthy in four to six weeks. Based on his Twitter account, Meeks has participated frequently in the Lakers’ informal workouts. But Meeks will still have to have a watchful eye on how his left ankle responds throughout the season.
2. Will Jodie Meeks become a more consistent shooter? Meeks made plenty of three-pointers in his first season with the Lakers. Only problem – way more of Meek’s shots missed. Meeks fit the exact description of feast or famine, and it leaves the Lakers wondering every game if they’ll have reliable outside shooting. The feast – Meeks scored in double digits in 26 of 78 games he played, shot above 50 percent from outside in 14 of them and had two memorable efforst where he scored 12 of his 19 points in a comeback against New Orleans and went 7 of 8 from three-point range against Denver. The famine – Meeks played in 25 games where he shot 25 percent or worse from the perimeter.
The Lakers have no easy answers. Coach Mike D’Antoni encouraged Meeks to shoot, but plenty of times his shots went astray. Say what you will about Meeks’ gun-slinging, but he’s the team’s most capable outside shooter and is the only reason the Lakers brought him here. Perhaps Meeks has altered his shooting stroke in the offseason. But for better and for worse, Meeks kept the same mindset and approach through both his good and bad performances. Like everyone else appeared at Staples Center, the Lakers will be anxiously awaiting to see whether the ball drops in the bucket or clanks off the rim.
3. Where will Meeks fit in with the rest of the Lakers’ backcourt? How well Meeks overcomes his shooting inconsistency will likely determine what kind of role he has in the Lakers’ backcourt. Meeks has a huge opportunity ahead of him considering uncertainty on Kobe Bryant’s left Achilles tendon and D’Antoni’s support for Meeks to keep shooting. But the Lakers hope Steve Nash, Nick Young and Wesley Johnson can hit three-pointers, too. If any of their consistency correlates with Meeks’ shooting struggles, it’s possible he will face a diminished role.
4. The Lakers can rely on Meeks to work hard. Say what you will about Meeks’ streaky shooting or shaky fast-breaks. But last season, Meeks remained a willing worker through inconsistent playing time and inconsistent shooting. He’s by no means an elite defender. But Meeks was perhaps the only player that truly hustled on every single play. For a team that’s in need of positive energy, Meek’s attitude should go a long way. It will help him have a role. It may convince the Lakers he’s worth keeping past his $1.6 million expiring contract. And Meek’s hustle could entice other young players (Young, Johnson) to work just as hard.
5. Will Meeks have more of a complete game? Beyond his hustle, Meeks has a chance to still prove value even if his outside shot doesn’t fall. It’d help Meeks if he diversified his shooting and resort to mid-range jumpers to build back his rhythm. It’d also be a good idea to avoid driving to the basket. Last season, that didn’t usually end well.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org