In other words, things are bleak without Pau Gasol and Steve Nash.
Basically the Lakers offense as of late consists of either Kobe Bryant running an isolation play (usually ending up with him making his way to the rim or shooting a contested jumper), or the Lakers end up running a series of unsuccessful slashes through Chris Duhon, usually putting the ball in Dwight Howard's hands with single digits left on the shot clock.
There's nothing to attribute the sluggish start to this season other than to uninspired play and, well, uninspired coaching.
Normally it would feel right to blame the players for a loss like this. They fell behind early to a team riding a wave of emotion thanks to the return of their star player, Kyrie Irving, but the Lakers were unable to get it together and play superior basketball.
The fact is they were outplayed by an inferior group of basketball players.
Now, there's going to continue to be a lot of people defending what's going on, saying that the team will be a lot better once Gasol and Nash get back. And they should. The only problem with that argument is that it doesn't explain why the team they have on the floor is so terrible.
Hell, even the last Lakers team to miss the playoffs, the 2005 squad, was able to knock out 13 wins in their first 22 games, and they had a guy named Tierre Brown play more than 1000 minutes that season.
Not amazing, but not terrible either.
The argument will continue to be that the guys surrounding the core are the problem, and they don't have enough help outside of Kobe and Dwight. To that I say look at the team who just beat them:
"Look at who Kobe and Dwight are playing with." YEAH, AND KYRIE AND VAREJAO ARE STACKED LIKE SHOWTIME LAKERS BEHIND THEM
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 12, 2012
Well, I guess you could say they don't have the former D-League Player of the Year like the Cavs do (Alonzo Gee). Other than that, there really isn't a reason why this Lakers team should lose to the Cavs.
The fact is, with two guys as individually dominant as Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, you should be able to grind out more than just a few wins here and there, as long as the players are bringing their best effort.
Instead, Los Angeles has been playing games half-assed more often than they've been playing with their whole ass—and it's showing up on the stat sheet.
They've turned the ball over at least 18 times in three of the last six games, and in just two of those games did they commit fewer than 10 turnovers.
As a team they lack hustle, they lack discipline on defense, they move the ball poorly and give up way too many offensive rebounds. Those are direct indicators of lazy, isolation basketball on offense and poor boxing out on defense.
All is not lost, however. As The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding tweeted, there seem to be a few signs that they are feeling the pressure, ready to lash out at the rest of the league.
Gut feeling coming out of Lakers' locker room tonight: They've finally bottomed out and are ready to fight back.
—KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) December 12, 2012
And while the team starts to get antsy (probably out of fear that Kobe Bryant is going to come at one of them with a sharp object if they lose to another lottery team), Mike D'Antoni is getting equally snippy.
There's a fine line between being mad enough to kick it into another gear and panic mad, but it seems like D'Antoni is right on the happy side of that line.
The fact is that this team should not be 9-13 with two All-Stars on their team and a guy in Metta World Peace who is playing his best offensive basketball since he came to the Lakers.
Continue to work on the basics, come together as a team and get the job done. This isn't the time to use the absence of Nash and Gasol as an excuse; that's just going to dig them a bigger hole.
Nash's return is still in question, yet we continue to go on and on about how good the Lakers are going to be when he gets back. The problem with that is we don't know when he's coming back, and if the delay to his return continues to be extended, they're going to be stuck running the Kobe-iso, Dwight-post offense to mixed results.