Dwight Howard, Steve Nash's Struggles Go Deeper Than the Princeton Offense

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Dwight Howard, Steve Nash's Struggles Go Deeper Than the Princeton Offense
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Even after an 0-3 start, there is still an air of guarded optimism surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers. Common theory suggests that a roster with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol will eventually figure it out.

However, that theory may be flawed, and it has nothing to do with the fact Los Angeles is 0-3, but everything to do with how the Lakers managed to get there.

There is plenty of blame to go around, and it starts at the top with the ineptitude of head coach Mike Brown and permeates down through the roster. But the root of the Lakers' troubles may lie in their two biggest offseason acquisitions.

I wouldn't dare call Dwight Howard or Steve Nash busts after only three games, but fundamental flaws in each player's game have been exposed.

To be fair, it's not like we shouldn't have seen this coming.

Most people have pointed to the Princeton offense as the main source of the Lakers' issues. While this is a popular opinion, the numbers don't validate it.

The Lakers have scored more than 100 points in two of their losses and 91 in the other. As a team, they are connecting on nearly 50 percent of their shots from the field. Howard's and Kobe Bryant's numbers are even more impressive, as both players are shooting better than 60 percent from the field and scoring more points per game than they did last season.

The Lakers average almost 20 turnovers per game, which is certainly a legitimate issue, but is something that will improve as the team gains more familiarity. I'm not sure if the same thing can be said about the defense. Specifically, in the case of Nash and Howard.

Most people assumed that Nash's offensive abilities would overshadow his limitations on defense, but unfortunately, as Nash has struggled to grasp the intricacies of the Lakers scheme, the opposite has been the case.

Nash's ineffectiveness on offense has illuminated his inability to guard anyone on the perimeter. His paltry four assists per game may be less important than the fact that Nash was abused by Darren Collison in the Lakers' first loss to the Dallas Mavericks. And Nash was well on his way to the same type of treatment by Portland's Damian Lillard before he was mercifully injured late in the first quarter of the Lakers' second loss.

If Nash can't defend a decent guard like Collison and a rookie, albeit a very talented one, in Lillard, what happens when he is matched against the conference's truly elite point guards?

Howard's presence in the back of the Lakers defense was supposed to serve as a deterrent for those seeking to breach the Lakers perimeter—but so far, Howard's performances have only raised more questions.

I'm not sure if Howard's issues are a matter of timing or rhythm, but I do know that he isn't exactly striking fear into the hearts of his opponents.

Howard has been repeatedly challenged at the rim by the likes of Brandan Wright and Deandre Jordan, and in many instances those less-touted players are winning.

It's even worse when you consider that opposing teams have figured out the best way to beat the Lakers is to attack them in transition. As the most athletic member on the roster, Howard has a responsibility to be the first man back on defense.

In order for the Lakers to challenge for a title this season, they will need to be dominant on the defensive end. There has been nothing they have done through three games to suggest that that is even a remote possibility.

The Lakers will improve on offense and Howard will undoubtedly get his timing back, but will they ever figure it out on the defensive end, especially with Brown as their primary teacher?

It may be time for the Lakers and their fans to adjust their horizons a little, because while there may be a path to the NBA Finals in the future, it would be nice if the Lakers could find a path to their first victory.

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