Over the past four games, Kobe Bryant is averaging 16.5 points, 12.0 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game. In that time, the Los Angeles Lakers are 3-1 and reaping the benefits of Bryant's facilitating ways.
Unfortunately, Kobe's pass-first evolution will not solve the Lakers' biggest problem.
As nice as it may be for Kobe to improve the flow of the Lakers offense, their ability to score has not been the issue. In fact, the Lakers rank sixth in the NBA in scoring offense at 102.2 points per game.
The issue: They rank 26th in scoring defense at 100.9 points allowed per contest.
#Lakers defense has always been the problem. Kobe passing has nothing to do with that. Steve Nash and D'Antoni are defensive poison.— Got 'Em Coach (@GotEm_Coach) January 31, 2013
Steve Nash is not the player to blame for the Lakers' defensive woes. The Lakers as a team have failed to show up with a consistent defensive effort.
Whether it's their rotations and chemistry or just their personnel, the Lakers can't get it done on defense. That is why they are 20-26 and on the outside of the playoff picture.
That won't change until the defense improves.
The Lakers are allowing opponents to shoot 45.1 percent from the floor and convert 7.3 three-point field goals per contest. Perhaps worst of all, the Lakers rank 29th in opponent points in the paint.
In other words, the Lakers are struggling in every major and advanced defensive category. As a result, their offensive firepower has been neutralized by an inability to prevent the opposition from outscoring them.
A major reason for this deficiency has been L.A.'s inability to piece together a consistent rotation.
From injuries to rapidly changing rotations, the Lakers are consistently in flux. With the inability to develop team chemistry, the defense has suffered.
To make matters worse, Dwight Howard has suffered yet another injury.
Dwight Howard's Injury
During the Lakers' Jan. 30 loss to the Phoenix Suns, center Dwight Howard appeared to have injured his right shoulder during a play involving Shannon Brown.
According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Howard reaggravated the torn labrum in his right shoulder.
This is just another setback in a never-ending saga of injuries for D-12. From his offseason back surgery to the recurring shoulder ailments, Howard has yet to play in a manner that represents his reputation.
Until he shows why he is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, the Lakers will continue to struggle. Even if Kobe Bryant is displaying a late-career evolution, the Lakers need more than his facilitating.
They need defense.