Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash is practicing and barring any setbacks is expected to play this Saturday after fracturing his right leg during the second game of the season on October 31.
While the Lakers were projected to finish second in the Western Conference, that outlook seems unrealistic. This doesn't mean the Lakers are no longer a playoff threat. But first, they must get there.
Kobe Bryant was interviewed by ESPN's Stephen A. Smith this past week, and he pointed out that the Lakers' problems are with transition defense. He also believes Pau Gasol is the key to the Lakers' success, pointing out he needs the ball in the post rather than at the free-throw line.
At the same time, Bryant acknowledged that Nash is the conductor and is critical to orchestrate the offense.
In providing commentary that aired on TNT's studio show, Inside the NBA, on December 13, studio analyst, Kenny Smith, stated, "Steve Nash allows everyone to be at their natural position. And when everyone is at their natural position, we'll see if Pau Gasol is the top 3 power forward in the game. We'll see if Dwight Howard is the best center in the game."
As of now, new Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni is catching the most criticism. Former Lakers great Magic Johnson believes D'Antoni is struggling in making adjustments, as the Lakers need to play inside.
Magic Johnson wants to see Phil Jackson take over again as the Lakers coach. I asked Mike Hill of ESPN the chances the Lakers make another coaching change:
@mikehillespn What is the over/under the Lakers mgt admit mistake on hiring D'antoni and bring in Phil Jackson? How many more games? — Steven Neely (@StevenNeely1)
@stevenneely1 They're not gonna pay 3 different coaches — Mike Hill (@MikeHillESPN)
So, knowing the Lakers don't appear to be making a coaching change, Mike D'Antoni will rely on Steve Nash to create cohesion in the offense, helping Bryant, Gasol and Howard to stay on the same page and play within their roles.
Regardless, Bryant knows the Lakers must improve on defense and Dwight Howard must improve his free-throw shooting to the point he is not left on the bench at the end of games.
The Lakers are first in free-throw attempts and 30th in free throws made.
The jury is still out on the Lakers until Steve Nash has an opportunity to work under D'Antoni's familiar system. It may not be the Lakers of old, but they do have talent to figure this out. Nash will have to remain healthy for the Lakers to become a viable playoff threat.
We are in a wait-and-see mode in anticipation of Steve Nash's return.
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