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Laker Stars Finally Realizing Mitch Kupchak's Vision

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 28:  (L-R) Dwight Howard #12, Metta World Peace #15 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers smile on the bench during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on December 28, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 104-87.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2012

Even as the owners of the Los Angeles Lakers continue to look like a bunch of bumbling idiots after the first few months of the NBA season, the team's GM, Mitch Kupchak, is finally seeing his vision come together.

Everybody knows the woes Los Angeles went through to get to this point.

The Lakers found themselves at a low point after losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks on their most recent road trip. Their record had plummeted to 9-14 and things looked dismal. 

A few wins against the struggling Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Bobcats was certainly nice, but by no means did the team look like it had turned things around.

They were barely able to squeak by Charlotte, winning 101-100 after a rousing comeback, and the team was still two games below .500 in the middle of December.

Then came the return of Steve Nash.

Pau Gasol had already come back from his short stint resting with sore knees in the game against Charlotte, and he was looking fresher. Nash's return, however, was the piece that put them over the top.

In the few games since Nash's return, Los Angeles has gone from averaging 20 assists per game to 21.4, which is a pretty huge leap to make over the course of four games after struggling to do much in terms of ball movement in the first 26 games.

Even as the team remains hobbled (Dwight Howard's back, Pau Gasol's knees and Nash's leg), the Lakers are starting to look better with each successive game, looking more like we thought they would back when the team was put together over the summer.

The strategy the team used in its recent game against the Portland Trail Blazers is basically the exact game plan it should follow every single night in order for things to play out as perfectly as possible.

Kobe Bryant led the team, scoring 27 points on 50 percent shooting, doing a lot of isolation work, but also getting into the flow of the offense more and more.

That all stems from the offense that Nash is creating on nearly every play. As the ball was fizzing around the perimeter and hitting cutters, going inside and out, the Lakers were able to rack up 29 assists, 10 coming from Nash.

Gasol and Howard locked down the paint, dominating the boards and scoring incredibly efficiently, combining for 36 points, 23 rebounds and six blocks, making 13 of their 21 shots.

With 64 points accounted for between those three players, the rest of the night was fill-in work. 

Nash added six where he could, Darius Morris shot within the flow of the offense, and the bench did enough to put the icing on the cake, combining for 27 points.

If this isn't what Kupchak had in mind back in August, then I'm still wondering what else he could be hoping for.

Each man played his role perfectly, which includes every member of the team, save the perilously-benched Antawn Jamison, who has yet to really figure out what he's doing on offense.

Any game where the Lakers can get Robert Sacre on the floor and have him actually score seems to be a perfectly planned-out contest.

In the end, this team still has a lot of building left to do, and there's a lot it can improve upon, but we've seen what it is capable of at this point in time, and it's some pretty good basketball.

If the Lakers can keep that up, they might just bust their way above .500.

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