5 Rays of Hope LA Laker Fans Can Hold On To
When the Los Angeles Lakers' super-team came together, many expected it to take time for the unit to come together. No one expected the team to be 16-21 after 37 games and on the brink of missing the postseason.
Fortunately, there are rays of hope for Lakers fans to hold onto.
From the rise of an unexpected impact player to the increase in production from a veteran, the Lakers have shown signs of life. When you're a team that is expected to win 60 games, that may not be enough to placate the masses.
Just know that there are reasons for encouragement.
5. The Offense Is Flourishing
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Thus far in 2012-13, the Los Angeles Lakers rank fourth in the NBA with an average of 103.4 points per game.
They're doing so on a 14th-ranked 21.9 assists per game. With Steve Nash back in the rotation, the offense is only going to get better with time.
Even if they can't prevent any opponents from scoring, at least the Lakers are scoring at a high rate. Glass half full, anyone?
4. Kobe Continuing to Thrive
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Thus far in 2012-13, Kobe Bryant has posted season averages of 29.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Bryant is doing so on a slash line of .475/.359/.834. He's also averaging just 2.4 turnovers per contest in January.
In other words, Kobe isn't slowing down. He's only getting better with age and time.
What this signals is that the Lakers' leading scorer will continue to fill up the bucket with consistency. More importantly, Bryant will be there during clutch situations.
As the defense improves, L.A. will turn to Kobe for his late-game heroics. Fortunately, he's playing as if he were approaching his prime. From that he is not just flashing, but sustaining.
As for his defensive performances, the Lakers plan to use him more on the ball than off (via ESPN Los Angeles).
An approach that should breed more positive results.
3. Earl Clark's Emergence
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Over the past four games, Earl Clark is averaging 12.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 blocks per game.
To say that he has been a revelation would be an understatement. He's been more of a savior.
Just as Jordan Hill was reported to be out for the season with a hip injury, Clark emerged as a viable option (via The Los Angeles Times).
Clark is rebounding at the rate one would expect from Hill. He's also blocking shots at a similar pace.
Although Hill owns an advantage in size and physicality, Clark offers upgrades of his own. Not only is he a superior shooter, but he's a more dynamic athlete and all-around scorer.
Hill's injury has been neutralized by the rise of Earl Clark. A true ray of hope.
After all, every elite veteran needs a young gun to kick them into gear.
2. Dwight Howard Returning to Form
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It may have taken nearly half of the 2012-13 NBA regular season, but Dwight Howard has finally begun to slow flashes of the player we used to know.
Over his past five games, Howard is averaging 17.0 points, 16.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game.
With an increase in scoring, those are the numbers that D-12 should be posting on a nightly basis. Nothing less.
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year must help improve the NBA's 26th-ranked defense. Ranks of third in rebounding and ninth in blocks per game suggest that there is room for improvement.
Howard should be the anchor of an elite defense. His recent performances say he will be.
The question is, will it be too little too late?
Remember, folks. Optimism.
1. Still Not Healthy
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This isn't an excuse, but instead a sign of better days.
The Los Angeles Lakers have yet to reach full strength for a sustained period of time.
Steve Nash has been back from a leg fracture for just 11 games.
Dwight Howard has yet to recover to a full 100 percent after offseason back surgery. To make matters worse, he recently injured his shoulder (via The Los Angeles Times).
Fortunately, D-12 has returned to the rotation.
As for Pau Gasol, he's battled injuries all season. The latest ailment is a concussion that was sustained when Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee hit Gasol with an inadvertent elbow (via ESPN Los Angeles).
Pau still hasn't made his return to game action.
Now, there is no guarantee that a return to full health will cure all woes. With that being said, there is no reason to believe the Lakers will not improve once healthy.
Upon Gasol's return and Howard's full recovery, the Lakers could become the power we expected them to be.
A true ray of light in a cloudy season.