It wasn't supposed to be like this.
The Los Angeles Lakers were branded and USDA certified as NBA title contenders after acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash during the offseason, but then the regular season began and reality set in.
Every Lakers fan understood that it would take time to blend the talents of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol with Nash and Howard in hopes of forming the NBA's newest super team, but unfortunately what looks good on paper does not always manifest on the court.
The Lakers have played 17 games and lost nine, and Nash has played less than an hour's worth of minutes on the hardwood so far.
Howard has been dominant on offense and defense, but his lack of consistency on either end proves his enthusiasm and energy is greater than his health at this point.
Kobe Bryant has mostly kept the Lakers ship afloat during this disappointing early season cruise, but his career year can't hide the team's failures so far.
Curiously, the Lakers are ranked fifth in offensive efficiency and 10th in defense, but their record says they are only percentage points better than the Charlotte Bobcats.
The same Bobcats who were arguably the worst team in NBA history last season, currently own one less win and the same number of losses as their far west Hollywood counterparts?
The Lakers offense will certainly improve once Nash returns, and there is a possibility that their recent offensive explosion against the Denver Nuggets will become the rule instead of the exception. But eventually you have to stop someone on the other end.
And if the Lakers can't stop the Orlando Magic, is there really any hope?
Darius Morris and Chris Duhon are not as offensively gifted as Nash and backup Steve Blake, but they are more athletic and they both have strong defensive reputations, which meant nothing at all against the Magic.
Jameer Nelson and J.J. Reddick took turns abusing Morris and Duhon on the perimeter, and there is nothing that Nash has done in his career that makes me think he would fare any better in the same circumstance.
And that's regardless of what Bryant has to say.
After the Lakers' latest loss to Orlando, Bryant said (via Yahoo's Balls Don't Lie) that he would kick everyone's ass if they didn't get their problems fixed, but how do you fix a flawed concept and strategy?
Lakers forward Pau Gasol seemed to be the focus of Bryant's irritation, but according to Lakers fans Gasol's struggles on offense will be erased by Nash's return.
I'm not sure if Nash can turn Gasol into A'mare Stoudemire, but I know he can't force Gasol to be a better defensive player.
And neither can Bryant or D'Antoni.
Gasol is a strong defensive player in halfcourt sets, but he's lousy in transition, and judging by his team's performance in the fourth quarter against Orlando, it's a shared affliction.
Bryant's words are good for print, but they won't make the Lakers a better defensive team. And neither will Nash.
The Lakers do have a few goals that are still within reach right now, but none of them should include a trip to the 2013 NBA Finals.
Re-signing Howard should be general manager Mitch Kupchak's first task after this season's second round playoff exit.
Repairing the team's relationship with Phil Jackson and getting rid of D'Antoni should be the next.
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