The Los Angeles Lakers are currently in the midst of a four-game winning streak which has somewhat calmed the storm after a four-game losing streak that had some fans inch closer and closer to the panic button. While the Lakers are playing improved basketball and their star point guard, Steve Nash, has finally made his return to the lineup, there are still plenty of things that need to go right and need to be fixed if they are to turn their championship aspirations into reality.
With Christmas right around the corner and Santa getting ready to fire up his sleigh, let's put together a wish list for the Lakers for the rest of the season.
1) Improved defense
When the Lakers landed Dwight Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, it was widely assumed that L.A.'s defense would be much improved, especially with a defensive-minded coach in Mike Brown helping steer the ship. Well, as you know, Brown wasn't invited to stick around very long this season and since his departure, the Lakers have continued to not be a very good team defensively.
As of right now, there are too many defensive breakdowns and slow rotations that are causing the Lakers all sorts of problems (there were at least three against the Warriors that were just unforgivable). They currently sit at 22nd in the NBA allowing 99.9 points per game (they allowed 95.9 last season).
Some of it has to do with the Lakers being one of the older teams in the league and some of it has to do with Mike D'Antoni not being a great defensive coach. Whatever the case may be, the Lakers need to figure out how to stop teams in order to be as successful as they want to be.
It all started during the preseason when Dwight Howard didn't play a single game as he recovered from offseason back surgery. Then Steve Nash went down in the second game of the season with a left leg injury. Steve Blake was the next casualty, as he was forced to undergo surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle. Pau Gasol followed all of that up by missing eight games with knee tendinitis.
Gasol, Nash and Howard are now back in the starting lineup, but Nash and Howard aren't quite back to the tip-top shape we are all used to seeing them in. Nash needs to remain healthy to stabilize and organize the Lakers' offense—something that was missing a ton when he was out.
Howard has managed to play all 27 games thus far, but it's clear that he isn't quite at 100 percent. He continues to recover from the back surgery in April and his foot speed is not what it used to be. He's going to need to regain every speck of that for him to be the same defensive presence he was in Orlando.
With an aging roster, health can be a concern as they grind through an 82-game season. With Nash now back in the fold, they more or less have the main tools they need to put together a string of success, but they're all going to have to stay fully healthy in order for that to happen.
3) No more drama
Yes, when there are struggles in Laker-land, drama is sure to be there, rearing its ugly head.
This drama-infused season started off with Kobe's "death stare" and Mike Brown getting the boot after five games. That was followed by the coaching search that saw management pick a coach with zero NBA titles (Mike D'Antoni) over a man that has 11 of them (Phil Jackson).
Then there is the Pau Gasol drama, which has been enough to fill a supermarket tabloid. He's been involved in a slew of trade rumors, benched in late-game situations, told by Kobe to put his "big boy pants on" and been reportedly told by management that he would need to adjust to D'Antoni's system ASAP or be dealt.
Add in D'Antoni becoming agitated by a reporter and Kobe constantly voicing his frustrations and you have a laundry list of items that can start to become a distraction for a team that needs all of the focus it can get.
In order for the Lakers to reach their full potential, all of this drama has to come to an end. Players and coaches can say all they want about how they don't think about this stuff and how it doesn't bother them, but given that the spotlight is on this team on a 24/7 basis, you have to imagine that all the chatter eventually finds its way to bother them, which negatively affects the team.
I don't know if the Lakers have been naughty or nice this year. Either way, I'm sure they're hoping that Santa can find it in his heart to deliver the three listed gifts under their tree at Staples Center.
Although, Santa might actually be a Clippers fan. Do you see all that red he wears?