Experts throughout the NBA community have weighed in with their view on the ongoing debacle. Although banter has been mostly negative to reflect the Lakers’ struggles, there are some silver linings for Lakers fans to cling to.
The Lakers' 1-4 start to the season led to the firing of head coach Mike Brown (which surprised very few). New hire Mike D’Antoni hasn’t been much help, as the Lakers stand with a 12-14 record as December draws to a close. The only Western Conference teams that have been worse than the Lakers thus far are the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Hornets.
For the Lakers, it hasn’t just been about losing, but looking terrible in those losses. Marks in the "L" column this season include bad losses to Dallas, Cleveland, Sacramento, Indiana, Orlando and Portland. That’s not to mention the fact that the Lakers looked terrible in wins against the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats. Those two teams have a combined 10 wins on the season, and the Lakers managed to beat those teams by seven points combined.
In professional basketball, a win is a win. Whether you win by 30 points or by a game-winning shot at the buzzer, the result is the same. However, this revamped Lakers roster was expected to blow out good teams. So far they've barely beaten and lost to cellar-dwellers.
The Lakers have problems in a lot of areas, but the primary issue is with the defense.
On Dec. 17, NBA.com’s David Aldridge wrote an article chronicling the Lakers all-around struggles, but focused on the team’s porous defense as the major problem.
The Lakers' issue, against the league's elite, anyway, is their horrible defense.
Look, I'm never going to master the Xs and Os of the game, but even I know what "help the helper" means. It's Basketball 101. When Howard comes over to challenge a shot in the lane, the next man over on the weak side has to come and help cover the man Howard has left to help his teammate (hence, "help the helper"). It's the most basic defensive rotation in the game.
What’s worth pointing out about Aldridge’s breakdown is that the Lakers’ defensive struggles are not at all complex. As a unit, the Lakers are failing to make the most basic and fundamental plays on the defensive end, which is killing them in the win column.
The additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard were meant to bring special buzz back to the Lakers. A certain aura that gave fans the pleasure to know they were about to witness something special.
“That feeling is gone. Now they’re just a bunch of guys wearing purple, really tall Barneys,” Aldridge wrote.
I watched Barney for many years as a child, and although he never found his way to the hardwood (at least that I can remember), the Lakers couldn’t be worse with the purple dinosaur suiting up as a role player.
Questions David Leon Moore of USA Today asked of the Lakers on Dec. 11 included if Nash can be the savior when he returns from injury and if Howard can finally get going (Howard’s points and rebounds per game have been down compared to a season ago).
Moore cited Howard’s horrendous shooting numbers from the free-throw line this season as well. A problem that NBA legend Charles Barkley called “psychological” on the Dan Patrick radio show, according to Moore's article.
The @lakers transition and half court defense has been terrible all season...— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) December 10, 2012
The doom and gloom in Lakerland has even managed to cast a dark cloud over Kobe Bryant’s phenomenal season.
At 34 years old, he’s having arguably his best statistical season ever: 29.5 points per game (while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from beyond the arc), 5.2 rebounds per game and five assists per game. Despite that, the Lakers aren't even a .500 team.
The basketball talk in Los Angeles is vastly negative (unless we’re talking about the Los Angeles Clippers), but there are those looking at silver linings.
For instance, Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld spoke with an anonymous scout and an anonymous coach regarding the impact Nash will have on the team.
One coach said, “Nash will make the Lakers exponentially better. He makes the Lakers better in every area,” according to Kennedy.
Evidently that coach didn’t account for Nash’s lackluster defense, but the Lakers can’t exactly be worse in that department.
The return of Nash and Pau Gasol will undoubtedly help the Lakers from a skill standpoint, but there will likely still be some growing pains in terms of team chemistry.
The Lakers' record obviously isn’t where they want it to be, but they still have an average point differential of plus-2.7. ESPN’s Mark Stein has some good news for Lakers fans regarding that stat:
Hope for Lakers: Elias says 95.4 percent of teams with positive scoring margin have made playoffs since current format introduce in '83-84— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 13, 2012
Injuries, a lack of continuity and an overall negative atmosphere have helped doom the Lakers in the early season. However, if Nash and Gasol come back healthy, this team has the potential to put all the negatives behind it.
It would be truly shocking if the Lakers failed to make the playoffs, but if the season ended today, that would be a harsh reality.