Steve Nash Offers No Guarantees That LA Lakers Will Make the Playoffs

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Steve Nash Offers No Guarantees That LA Lakers Will Make the Playoffs
USA TODAY Sports

Go ahead and file an optimistic Steve Nash under the ever-growing list of things that don't exist inside the Los Angeles Lakers locker room.

Four games under .500, down Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, and four games outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, assurance isn't a luxury the Lakers are afforded. Nor is it one they can offer.

Which is why the oft-upbeat Nash (via Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times) was despondent when offering his suddenly tempered expectations for Los Angeles after a loss to the Houston Rockets:

Nash became only the fifth player in NBA history to reach the five-digit assist threshold, joining John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson.

Yet the only figure that resonated with Nash afterward was the Lakers' 15-19 record. The future Hall of Famer who joined the Lakers in search of a championship ring conceded that he was starting to doubt whether his team could pull out of its season-long nose dive.

"I think three or four weeks ago, people would have said, 'Oh, it will get better,' " Nash said. "Right now, I definitely don't think there's a guarantee it will, so the only remedy is to continue to work hard and give yourself a chance for it to get better."

Encouraged?

We're not supposed to be.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
There are no guarantees to be made in Tinseltown.

Nash offered no guarantee that the Lakers would turn their season around, offered no certainty in their quest for a postseason berth, because that's the truth.

With $100 million-plus in payroll and four perennial All-Stars on the docket, Los Angeles' future is about as sound as Pau Gasol's broken jumper. Currently, the Lakers have no better a chance of making the playoffs than other bubble teams such as the Utah Jazz or Minnesota Timberwolves do.

Why?

Because they're battered, shallow and, well, unbalanced.

Hands down, the Lakers are an offensive juggernaut. In their first game without Gasol and Howard they posted 112 points. More impressive was their ability to hit such a metric with Nash and Kobe Bryant combining for just 36 points.

But what do the Lakers have outside of that offense, that potent point-totaling blueprint?

Nothing. 

The defense, the depth just isn't there for the Lakers.

Los Angeles doesn't have a collective defensive conscience. It is in the bottom 10 of defensive efficiency, allows the fifth-most points in the paint (47.2) of any NBA team and ranks 24th in points allowed (24.5) in the 4th quarter.

That sense of urgency to defend just isn't there. Just like the presence of depth.

Enough cannot be made of the fact that the Lakers have five players currently averaging more than 30 minutes per game, four of which are over 32 years of age. And such absence of depth shows.

Los Angeles' bench ranks 28th in points scored (25.9) per game and 20th in points allowed (34.1) as well. 

That much-needed presence of depth isn't there.

On a team with four superstars, such a reality might not seem like a big deal. And perhaps it wouldn't be, if the Lakers weren't lambasted to their very core.

Per Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, Los Angeles' starters will have missed 38 games combined after the team's bout with the San Antonio Spurs.

More importantly, Bryant, Gasol, Howard and Nash have appeared in just nine games together. Considering these four are the Lakers, that's a serious problem. One that has left this team with the fifth-worst record in the Western Conference.

No other NBA team has taken that kind of personnel hit. Not the Golden State Warriors with Andrew Bogut and not even the New York Knicks with Amar'e Stoudemire.

Is this an excuse?

Definitely not. Los Angeles is past the point of excuses.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Nash can't say the Lakers will make the playoffs because he just doesn't know.

But it is a reality. The Lakers, Nash included, cannot say where they're headed with any conviction because they just don't know.

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Los Angeles hasn't been at full strength all season and the four most important pieces to its puzzle have played but a smidgen over a quarter of the season together. 

How can we expect the Lakers to win without playing together, without having time to develop an on-court rapport?

We can't. And they haven't.

"We thought it was going to be easier this year for us," Bryant had said.

Well Kobe, you and the rest of us were wrong.

Just as we would be if we, Nash included, attempted to shed any definitive light on a Lakers team that is enshrouded in nothing but ambiguity.

 

*All stats in this article are accurate as of January 8, 2013.

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