The Los Angeles Lakers are 7-4 after 11 games, a record fairly indicative of their up-and-down start to the young season.
While it's clear that Mike Brown is still searching for answers in terms of his rotations and personnel, we've witnessed some positive trends beginning to emerge as well.
Let's take a look at some of the pleasant surprises thus far in the early season.
Credit head coach Mike Brown for realizing that unless there was a renewed commitment on the defensive end, this Lakers team wouldn't experience much success in 2012.
Faced with an aging roster severely lacking in offensive firepower, the arrival of Brown seems to have coincided with an infusion of some much-needed toughness and grit in Los Angeles.
The Lakers rank fourth overall in the NBA in points allowed (90.0 points per game) and first in the Western Conference—nearly a five-point improvement over last season.
When Brown was introduced as the Lakers' new head coach this past summer, he talked about a defense built around three principles:
1. Shrink the floor by not giving up anything easy in the paint;
2. Don't give up middle drives because there are too many outlets;
3. Get multiple efforts to finish with a shot contest (giving up on a play is never an option).
The Lakers seemed to have grasped these concepts and are able to win games in the 90s as a result.
One of the big question marks heading into the season revolved around the small forward position and who would step up in place of Metta World Peace, who Brown designated as the leader of the second unit.
Second-year wingman Devin Ebanks started the first four games of the season before eventually giving way to nine-year veteran Matt Barnes.
In Barnes' last three starts, he's played over 30 minutes per game while averaging 11.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, one steal and one block.
Now with a firm grip on the position, he won't have to look over his shoulder, as Brown recently gave Barnes his vote of confidence moving forward as the starter.
Although the Lakers' production from the point guard position still leaves more to be desired than any other team in the NBA, Steve Blake has been a pleasant surprise in the early going.
Any loyalty to starting point guard Derek Fisher went out the door with Phil Jackson, and Blake has benefited as a result.
As Fisher's rapid decline on the court continues to cost the Lakers valuable possessions, Brown is beginning to insert Blake during crunch time alongside the starting unit.
While Fisher's minutes continue to decrease, Blake is seeing an uptick in playing time and has responded by doubling his scoring average over last season from four to nearly eight points per contest.
After sitting out the first four games of the season while serving a suspension, Andrew Bynum is playing over 34 minutes per night, an increase of over six minutes from last year.
Bynum has suddenly emerged as the Lakers' second option on offense, evidenced by his 14 field-goal attempts per game, over two more shots than teammate Pau Gasol is averaging.
Bynum has responded to his new role with Dwight Howard-like production, scoring 17.9 points to go along with 14.6 rebounds per contest.
Bynum appears to be on track to start his first All-Star game in 2012 and is making his case to remain in L.A. as the future face of the franchise.
The offseason procedures performed in Germany on Kobe Bryant's right knee and left ankle have done wonders for the 16-year veteran.
Playing with a noticeable bounce in his step, Bryant is averaging 29.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per contest after the season's first 11 games.
After struggling with his shot early on due to torn ligaments in his right wrist, Bryant is now shooting 46 percent from the field—slightly better than his 45.5 percent career average.
While Kobe's newfound health is a pleasant surprise in the early going, it remains to be seen whether his league-leading 23.7 shot attempts per game will be the answer to the Lakers' early-season struggles on offense.
However, he may have addressed that concern after scoring 48 points on 31 shots in a 99-83 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
"Not bad for the seventh-best player in the league," Bryant said, referring to an online ranking of the NBA's top 500 players.