The Los Angeles Lakers don't know who they are.
After a 1-3 start to the 2012-13 campaign that has seen them struggle to operate as a cohesive entity, they're lost.
Which is why Steve Nash's injury will prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Steve Nash could miss up to four weeks with the small fracture in his left leg, a Lakers source said. #BadLakerNews— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 5, 2012
Is Nash's absence a welcomed occurrence? Hardly.
He has the potential to jump-start what has been an often less than potent offensive attack for Los Angeles, something a team never wants to be without.
But right now, the Lakers need this. They need to figure out who they are outside of Nash.
Through the first three games of the season, it was easy to look at Los Angeles and conclude that its struggles, its winless start to the year came back to Nash.
He was averaging just 4.5 points and four assists on 33.3 percent shooting through two games, and the Lakers found themselves without him in their underwhelming performance against the Los Angeles Clippers.
So, obviously, this all came back to Nash.
Yet on a roster fraught with perennial All-Stars, such a conclusion is not acceptable.
Most expected Nash to come in and revitalize Los Angeles' offensive attack. One of the NBA's worst three-point shooting teams was supposed to become a lethal long-range threat. The points were supposed to pile up, and the wins should have followed suit.
But it hasn't been that easy. It never is, especially when the offensive blueprint dictates Nash not have the ball in his hands for a majority of the time.
Which is why his time out of the lineup is so important. It provides the Lakers with an opportunity to establish an identity outside of Nash's struggles, an identity that will allow them to win despite a pillar such as him being forced to make the most adjustments of anyone.
Relying on Nash at this point is futile.
Why? Because the Lakers are committed to the Princeton offense.
Through four games, Los Angeles has just 34 fast-break points and has been outscored in that department by each of its opponents, including the slow-paced Detroit Pistons.
Is that a problem?
To an extent, yes, but it's a detrimental flaw if the Lakers are looking to Nash to solve their problems.
Mike Brown himself would love to see Los Angeles get some more easy buckets in transition, yet right now, polishing the team's half-court offense is more important.
Meaning, the problem was never Nash. It was the team's refusal to attribute its early struggles to anything other than its current dynamic.
Nash isn't the reason the Lakers have committed the third-most turnovers in the league to date. He isn't the reason Metta World Peace is taking more shots per game than he has in three years, and he isn't the reason Kobe Bryant is getting the lowest number of looks at the basket he has seen in 10 years.
The Princeton offense is.
That's the real problem. Los Angeles needs to adjust as a synchronized collective before its trials and tribulations can be attributed to one player. Especially when that one player is systematically obligated to assume a marginal role in the offense.
Maybe down the road, the Lakers realize the Princeton offense doesn't suit their roster. Maybe Brown abandons it and puts the team's unconditional offensive livelihood in Nash's hands.
Or maybe they won't, and maybe Brown won't.
But that doesn't matter, because for now, they can't.
For now, as Los Angeles carries on without its aging yet prolific point man, the Princeton offense is the team's best chance at developing some sort of rapport, establishing a competent level of progress.
We watched as Kobe and company shot over 50 percent from the field, over 45 percent from the three-point line and put 108 points on the board in a blowout victory over the Pistons. So this offense can work.
More importantly, though, this blowout victory came without Nash. For the first time this season, the Lakers' failure or success wasn't predicated on Nash's performance, or lack thereof.
Instead, it was the direct result of the team's ability to succeed without him, to not rest the hopes of the offense's execution on the shoulders of a player who isn't the focal point of the team's structured sets.
It was the culmination of the Lakers' ability to begin to establish an identity outside of Nash.
A reality that they will have to both accept and embrace if they wish to ultimately charter this team's course in the right direction.