Upon acquiring the likes of Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Antawn Jamison, the Lakers became the commonly-picked favorites to win the Western Conference crown. Through their first five games, however, the Lakers have looked more like a contender for the first overall draft choice.
In turn, their record has fallen to 1-4 after Randy Foye and the Utah Jazz defeated the Lake Show by a score of 95-86.
Although the results have been disappointing, it's safe to say that we are getting ahead of ourselves. Forgive me for my skepticism, but I'm not too sure a poor record through a mere five games is worth our time or concern.
After all, five games in an 82-game season are only relevant for teams that are not capable of pulling out 10-game win streaks.
What is concerning, however, is the growing dissension in the Lakers' locker room, specifically the disparity between superstar team leaders Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.
Bryant was visibly upset during and after the Lakers' most recent loss in Utah. Despite his 16 fourth-quarter points, the Lakers ended up dropping the game by a rather dominant nine points.
In turn, Bryant punched the ball on an inbounds pass, stared down head coach Mike Brown and made post-game comments to reporters about his growing frustration.
According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, Bryant was asked post-game what his frustrations pertained to. In response, Bryant claimed that he had reasons, but “none that I care to share."
In response to Kobe's frustration, superstar center Dwight Howard chimed in with some advice for his new teammate.
“I think sometimes as a team we got to be able to not really show our frustrations that much,” Howard said after L.A. fell to 1-12 with their preseason record included. “A lot of the guys look at me and Kobe and they feed off us, so we have to do a better job of keeping our frustrations on the inside and just playing through it so our teammates won’t get down on themselves. So, we just got to do a better job at that.
“I know [Kobe] was a little frustrated tonight. He wants to win just as bad as all of us do, but we just got to stay together, remember it’s a process, and stay focused.”
Although this is no sign that the two are at odds, we've all learned how high a standard Kobe Bryant sets for himself and his teammates. In turn, Bryant expects everyone to be on the same page.
If he is frustrated, everyone is frustrated. If he is pleased, everyone else should be working that much harder to raise their game.
Although D-12 and Kobe's relationship will be fine, Howard's comments offer the first sign of trouble for the Los Angeles Lakers.
They're Both Right
Let's be real about this.
Kobe Bryant has every reason to be frustrated with the way the Lakers have performed. Not only are they 1-4, but they're averaging 18.6 turnovers per game and are shooting just 33.7 percent from the floor when Bryant is on the bench.
With that being said, Dwight Howard is right.
The Lakers cannot afford to allow their frustrations to boil over. They're already playing poorly enough as is, so any off-court or mental distractions will do nothing but hurt their cause.
Although Bryant is justified to be upset, there is no way to validate his doing anything but remaining level-headed. As Howard stated, the team will look to he and Bryant as the leaders of this team and follow their example.
If Bryant is not able to keep his cool during this time of adversity, the Lakers will follow his pattern. If he continues to perform at the MVP-caliber level he has displayed, however, the Lakers will subsequently follow as team chemistry builds.
It may not be what the greatest leader of our generation wants to hear, but Dwight Howard is correct. Even if Kobe is too.
Everyone is Frustrated
This isn't an isolated issue in which Kobe Bryant is the only player that is frustrated. No one in the Lakers locker room appears to be pleased with the way they're performing as a team, nor do they appear inclined to temper their discouragement.
If Bryant does not find a way to overcome his anger, however, the results will not change.
Even head coach Mike Brown is aware of the warranted disappointment. Unlike Bryant, Brown actually offered up some reasoning for this level of exposed fury.
“I think we’re all frustrated,” said Brown. “I’m pretty frustrated, too, from the simple fact that I just didn’t think that we played the game like we talked about going into the game. We wanted to be the ones that hit first. We wanted to be the ones to play through their physicality, and I thought we didn’t.”
Like him or not, Brown is spot-on about what the Lakers are doing wrong. They're entering games with an expectation and falling short of their goals every time out. Worst of all, they're being bullied by almost every opponent.
Specifically on the frontline, where the Lakers were expected to have their greatest advantage.
With every member of the Lakers personnel up in arms, there is one question that we must ask. One question that will provide the reasoning for all of the Lakers' early-season woes.
Does anyone know how to make this right?
Which Way is Up?
With the previous being established, there is one major reason that the potential dissension between Kobe and D-12 could be severely detrimental. Absolutely no one in the Lakers locker room appears to know what to do in order to solve their current issues.
With the exception of their victory over the 0-4 Detroit Pistons, the Lakers appear to be getting worse with every passing game. Not so coincidentally, their frustration grows with each poor performance.
If that is not an important parallel, what is?
With consistency and chemistry lacking, the potential quarrel between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard could derail any chance of recovery. As we've seen in the past, players who go against Kobe don't fare too well.
The question is, can Bryant agree upon D-12's sentiments? If so, the Lakers will turn things around and become the team they're destined to be.
If not, these early season woes will last longer than expected.