The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled with inconsistent performances from their best players all season long. Even with coach Mike Brown fired and Mike D’Antoni brought in, L.A. can’t seem to put all of the pieces together.
In the beginning of the 2012-13 campaign, Dwight Howard was the team's most effective player—which was a major surprise considering he was initially questionable to start the season as he recovered from back surgery. However, DH12 is having a run of terrible games over the past week or so and this stretch couldn’t have come at a worse time.
With Pau Gasol suffering under D’Antoni—notably being benched for the entirety of the fourth quarter in a loss to Memphis—the Lakers can’t have Howard playing below expectations. That would leave them with hardly any production in the middle, an area where they most need to improve.
Howard hasn’t scored more than 15 points in any of the past three games, and hasn’t had double-digit rebounds in that same span. He’s getting his minutes, but obviously isn’t adapting to D’Antoni’s game plans and isn’t yet comfortable in the system.
That has to change. Simply put, the Lakers aren’t the championship team that GM Mitch Kupchak put together this offseason unless DH12 is at an All-NBA level.
So how do things go about changing in L.A.?
Will Howard bust his slump soon?
First, Steve Nash needs to get healthy. He won two MVP awards playing under D’Antoni in Phoenix and understands his offense better than anyone. He’ll be running the pick-and-roll with great effectiveness and DH12 is the perfect partner for that play.
Second, Gasol needs to provide Howard some support. If he’s getting down low, banging for boards and boxing out, both post players will benefit. If he’s sitting on the bench during crunch time, the Lakers' chances to win are significantly lower and Dwight is going to suffer.
Lastly, the team just needs some rest. They played five games in a seven-day stretch. That’s just insane, and an older team like L.A. is clearly going to struggle during such a brutal slew of games. Fortunately, they aren’t scheduled to play again until Tuesday and then have a break until Friday, with both games being held at home.
If Dwight gets Nash back, Gasol starts playing at his All-Star level and everyone just gets some much-needed rest, the Lakers are going to be soaring in the near future.