The Lakers are now 33-14 after another disappointing loss against a sub-.500 opponent. They've lost eight games against teams under .500 and six of those eight have been at home, including a loss in which the Clippers were the home team.
We can not assume the Lakers are just not playing hard against bad teams because they are only 7-6 against teams over .500, including losses to the three best teams they've played thus far (Dallas, Miami and San Antonio).
So what is wrong with the Lakers?
Are the Lakers just too old, as Jerry West alluded to?
Is it their offense?
Is it Kobe? After all, the Lakers are just 10-10 when Kobe takes at least 20 shots.
It is actually neither. There have been games where the Lakers have shown they can defend well and and games they have shown they can score efficiently. I think that stat that shows the Lakers are just average when Kobe shoots the ball 20 or more times is overrated and often out of proper context.
The Lakers have been very inconsistent and the problem is Phil Jackson. He already has one foot out of the door and I believe his heart is not into the game as much as it should. His famous zen-like nature may be a genuine disinterest.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Phil said this is his last year because he wanted he needed to search for something to capture his interest—for example, the opera.
So how has this affected the Lakers?
Doc Rivers recently stated that it is important for a championship/finals team to not get bored with the process that the team needs to take in order to return to the finals and ultimately win a championship. Quite frankly, Phil Jackson is bored with the process, not the team. After all, he has done it 11 times before. However, that should not be an excuse.
The Lakers rarely make in-game adjustments when they are not playing well. Phil Jackson is notorious for not calling timeouts, but it has really hurt the Lakers this season more than ever. And finally the team has shown a lack of commitment to fundamentals on both ends of the court. These are the very reasons the Lakers have underperformed thus far.
It is the coach's responsibility to correct these problems. It is Phil Jackson's duty to motivate the team. It is his role to prevent complacency and demand excellence. He has not done either.
It is worth noting that Phil Jackson implemented a new defensive scheme to reverse their defensive woes. The Lakers' original defensive strategy was a strong side zone. This meant overloading the strong side and funneling the ball handler to the baseline and into the Lakers' big men.
Their new strategy is to funnel the ball handler baseline and run shooters off of the three-point line and into their big men. So it seems that not much as changed and so far it has not been all that successful. The Lakers held Oklahoma City, Utah and Denver under 100 points, but allowed both Dallas and Sacramento to shoot over 50 percent from the field.
Phil Jackson can cure the Lakers' consistent lack of focus and motivation by reengaging himself and showing some enthusiasm. Phil cannot wait until the playoffs because Lakers have the toughest remaining schedule in the league.
If Phil does not get his act together, this may be a repeat of 2002-03 when the Lakers finished the season with a record of just 50-32, did not have home court advantage in the playoffs, and lost in six games in the conference semifinals.
In order for the Lakers to step their game up, Phil has to do so as well. A good start would be on Sunday versus the Boston Celtics.