The 2013 All-Star weekend has come and gone, and much like leaving your favorite summer camp as a child and returning to the real world, we must also return to the reality that is the regular season. For Los Angeles Lakers fans, this is one sobering reality.
Sporting a 25-29 record before the break, L.A.'s performance has been borderline disastrous. Various inconsistencies have plagued the Lake Show, hindering its performance and being rendered unable to live up to the hype of this past offseason.
However, it is time for some changes, which should be coming right around the bend. Here are three key factors to look out for to close out the Lakers' season.
One of the many factors that has contributed to the Lakers' progress (or lack thereof) has been the frequent injuries affecting the team's biggest players. Center Dwight Howard has been on and off the injured list, and forward Pau Gasol had missed six games prior to the All-Star break.
Expect to see a healthy Gasol; maybe not a Gasol who will quickly return to the lineup, but rather one who will accept his role as a bench player in order to return to top form. Nevertheless, Gasol will embrace his new position, and this change can prove to be a long-term investment.
Howard's case hasn't been so severe. The seven-time All-Star made a quick recovery from back surgery, but he continued to struggle, suffering minor injuries throughout the season. Howard has been making some significant improvements in dealing with injury, and it may or may not have to do with Kobe Bryant's "tough love" approach.
Prior to the All-Star break, the Lakers defense was so dismal, members of the Laker Nation have joked that the team's head coach should change his last name to Antoni, due to the fact that, like his team, there is simply no "D" to be found. Defensively, L.A. has been weak, giving up simple turnovers and not showing enough aggression in the paint.
However, change is on the horizon.
Contrary to popular belief, Metta World Peace is slowly, yet surely, returning to his old self, rocking the boards and posing an intimidating presence in the paint. Howard is progressively getting acclimated to his role as the team's big man, so he is due for a defensively stunning game any day now.
Quite possibly the biggest factor in the Lakers' subpar performance this season has got to be the dysfunction amongst the team. The team's roster was shaken up this past offseason with the addition of Howard and Steve Nash.
The players' inability to figure each other out, combined with the unexpected change in coaching styles, has led to some serious issues in understanding each other on the court.
We're past the halfway mark in this season, and it's about time Bryant, Nash, Gasol, World Peace, Howard and Co. got it together. Expect to see improved communication during plays, leading to a vast improvement in team chemistry.
If the Lakers fix nothing else during the remainder of this season, they desperately need to fix this. The circus act we have all had to see should soon be coming to a close, and we should be witnessing a potential powerhouse in the Western Conference.