We can all agree that at 15-16 the Los Angeles Lakers have seriously underperformed this season. The worst part is, nothing suggests it will get any better for the Lakers.
The biggest failures are also not just limited to players, as the disappointing moments are found on multiple levels of the franchise.
To make it fairer to Dwight Howard, the title could easily be "Dwight Howard's recovery." While Dwight has started every game for the Lakers this season, he has not looked fully healthy at any point.
Dwight's stats pass the eye test considering his new surroundings and diminished role, but his play doesn't. Howard is not as explosive and seems slower on the court than he has been in past years.
His defensive play has been terrific, but his offense has left something to be desired. Back injuries are serious business, and it is very possible Dwight never really was 100 percent.
Regardless of why, Dwight has not been able to dominate on offense the way the Lakers have needed him to. As his play gets back to the norm, the Lakers will climb the ranks.
I am not going to say that hiring Mike D'Antoni was a bad call, but Phil Jackson should have gotten full priority. According to Phil (via ESPN, h/t CBSSports), he was made to believe that the coaching position was his to lose.
Phil has a strong relationship with three of the Laker starters, and the triangle could definitely work with the current group of Lakers on the floor.
Oh yeah, and he won 11 titles as an NBA head coach. Picking D'Antoni made sense considering that Steve Nash is running the offense, and Gasol's struggles.
With that said, there is no way D'Antoni is a better option for the new-look Lakers than Phil Jackson. I feel like there is a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that we just don't know about with this.
With all due respect to the players on the Lakers, Dwight and Metta are the only two players playing hard on defense. It shows, too, as L.A. is ranked 25th in points allowed this season.
Without Dwight, I don't think the Lakers would hold any spot other than the 30th. They have played terrible defense this season, and it starts on the perimeter.
Howard has been just a little slower and he is being tested more than ever. Nash and Bryant are playing pathetic defense, Metta is solid and Gasol has been average.
The bench doesn't get any better in that department; more on that in just a minute.
I have made it a habit to use the well-known phrase "Defense wins championships" when talking about a team's title hopes. For the Lakers, all their defense can get them is a lottery pick.
Another reason why maybe hiring Mike D'Antoni wasn't the best idea.
Steve Nash has missed 24 games this year, more than he has missed in his last five seasons combined. It's not a common occurrence for Nash to miss time, but this would be the year to do it.
Nash has his best shot at winning the title, and instead of the team coming together, they miss their floor general for a nearly third of the season.
L.A. has plenty of time to gel, but fans might just have to look toward next year with hope.
Before the season, it was clear the Lakers didn't have a great second unit, the hope was that they wouldn't really need it. Unfortunately, the Lakers have had to go to their bench quite a few times this year.
On another sad note, they have had to rely on Jodie Meeks, Darius Morris and a greatly underperforming Antawn Jamison to provide the support.
I will also acknowledge the great play of Jordan Hill in the second unit, but that's the only bright spot. Everyone else has had exactly zero positive impact on either end of the floor.
Antawn Jamison is the biggest disappointment, and his stats sit far below his career averages. While that could be blamed on a decreased role, it would not be right in this case.
Jamison has just played badly, no way around it. The rest of the bench is right behind him and playing terrible basketball.
The most obvious one here.
While the Lakers were bound to go through some growing pains, no one thought that they would be this bad. It's understandable that they are not in the top three in the West, but to not be in the top eight?
At this point, every loss is hurting L.A. more and more. The Lakers can't afford another slump, and them winning the title seems like an impossible feat.
The excuses are starting to run out. Looking past the poor play, the injuries and the front-office errors, all we have are the wins and losses.
If the season ended today, the Lakers would not be in the playoffs. We are almost at the halfway point here, so this isn't a little "out-of-the-gate stumble."
This might be a Superteam on paper, but they are nothing but an average group on the floor.
Thank you for reading and please leave your thoughts in the comments below!