Hopefully Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles aren't claustrophobic, because the sky is falling and the walls are closing in on Hollywood's finest.
And Steve Nash isn't going to change that.
Understandably, when you look at the Lakers, you don't see a tenuous entity that should be wallowing outside of the Western Conference's playoff picture. Nor do you see a team that is even close to healthy.
But what you do see is a star-studded faction placing the weight of its failing aspirations on the shoulders of an injured 39-year-old point guard who doesn't possess the necessary skill set to salvage the chaotic mess in Los Angeles.
This isn't to say that the Lakers shouldn't be anxiously awaiting Nash's return, and it's certainly not to say they shouldn't be crushed by the point guard's latest setback. Because they should.
Yet, this is to say that Los Angeles cannot rely on Nash to fix anything other than the team's offense. The Lakers cannot expect Nash to do anything other than he has his entire career, which is help put points on the board.
Surely, the Lakers aren't expecting Nash to do much else, though. Mike D'Antoni and Bryant know better than anyone that the veteran point man is an offensive connoisseur and virtually nothing more. They're not expecting him to mend anything but the team's offense.
Los Angeles' offense isn't broken, and subsequently believing that Nash is going restore the Lakers to a competent state is a blatant disregard for the real quandary at hand—defense.
Currently, the Lakers are averaging 101.5 points per game, the seventh-highest total in the NBA. Their 105.9 points per 100 possessions give them the seventh-most efficient offense in the league. They're also posting an effective field-goal percentage of 51.1, sixth-highest in the Association.
From there, you also see that Bryant is averaging 29.2 points per bout, putting him on pace for the fourth-best points per contest total of his career, while also shooting a career-best 48.8 percent from the floor.
Is the injured Pau Gasol having the worst season of his career? Yes. Has Dwight Howard been anything but timid on the offensive end? No. And are the Lakers 21st in the league with 20.7 assists per game? Yes.
But is that why they're losing? Is that why sky is falling on the head of a team that was prematurely deemed a title favorite?
Truth be told, Nash may come back, create more opportunities and yield more results for Gasol and Howard. He'll undoubtedly elevate Los Angeles' rate of assists per game as well.
His ability to do that, though, doesn't solve much.
None of those supposed shortcomings are what's preventing the Lakers from winning. Offensive struggles are not what's suffocating this team.
If offense was the problem, the Lakers wouldn't be the only team with a sub .500 record posting a positive point-differential (+2.69).
Which brings us to defense, the heart and soul of Los Angeles' dilemma.
To date, the Lakers are 18th in points allowed per game with 98.8. While that doesn't scream crisis, how those 99 or so points are being scored does.
Los Angeles is currently allowing 42.8 points in the paint per game, sixth-most in the league. That's with Howard patrolling the painted area, mind you. How is the the 6'3" Nash supposed to fix that?
Even more alarming are the 16.2 points in transition the Lakers are relinquishing per game, the second-worst mark in the league behind the Houston Rockets. How is the defensively inept Nash going to fix that?
He's not going to, nor was he was brought to Tinseltown to do so.
Kobe himself cites transition defense as Los Angeles' "Achilles' heel," a fault they have been unable to correct with defensive gurus like Howard and Metta World Peace in the lineup. And if that's what is, in fact, holding the Lakers back and causing their world to crumble, believing that the offensively-oriented Nash is going to keep the team afloat is more than mistaken.
Bear in mind that Nash actually stands to deepen Los Angeles' anguish on the defensive end. He's not nearly as talented a defender as Darius Morris or even Chris Duhon. And that's saying something, because neither of those players are what you would consider staunch defenders.
Yes, Nash stands to improve the Lakers' offensive attack, but that's the only aspect of Los Angeles' game the team and its fans can actually be somewhat content with. He's essentially going to add potency to an already efficacious attack.
And that's not a bad thing, but it's not a cure-all either.
Well, Coach Mike, that mantra may hold true in Los Angeles as well. Maybe the Lakers can't win without him.
But unless the Lakers sure up their transition defense, begin to blockade the paint and improve their defensive rotations, they're not going to win with him either.
"Not even a game."
All stats in this article are accurate as of December 11, 2012.
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