There are few things more meaningless in life than the NBA regular season. However, as the calendar ticks closer and closer to February fans of the purple and gold might just have reason to get a little nervous.
Last night's defeat at the hands of the 11-33 Sacramento Kings would make anyone take notice. I mean, this is still the team that won the NBA championship last year, isn't it? Don't they have their entire starting lineup healthy now that center Andrew Bynum has returned? Shouldn't they be steamrolling everyone in their path?
One would think, but the results have been hard to come by. Recent losses to the Memphis Grizzlies (23-24), Los Angeles Clippers (17-28) and now the Kings have a lot of observers scratching their heads as just what kind of team the Lakers really have.
Looking at the numbers, one wouldn't think anything was wrong in "Lakerland." The Lakers are in the top 10 in all relevant team statistics: sixth in scoring (103.8), third in differential (plus-7.5), third in field goal percentage (.472) and field goal percentage allowed (.437), seventh in three-point percentage allowed (.340), seventh in turnovers (13.7).
They fall slightly to the middle of the pack in their own three-point percentage, ranking 11th at .367 and are lackluster at forcing opponents' turnovers averaging 13.7 per game and 20th ranking.
So what could be the problem? Let's look at those last three losses specifically.
Last night against the Kings, Kobe Bryant took 27 shots. Forward Pau Gasol and reserve guard Shannon Brown were next with 11. This would lead one to believe that Kobe is going into "Jordan Mode" again and trying to win games by himself.
Perhaps, but one could argue that he had no choice. Bryant shot 48.1 percent from the field. The rest of the team a paltry 37.7 percent, including a wondrous 0-for-7 performance by the usually reliable Lamar Odom. Bryant also had 7 assists, which is one more than the rest of the starting five combined.
Against the Clippers, the results were a bit more balanced; however, the lack of touch from the perimeter (3-of-20) ultimately doomed the Lakers to a seven-point loss.
Against the Grizzlies, Bryant scored 21 of his 28 points in the second half but couldn't overcome the 20 turnovers the Lakers surrendered.
Of note is a struggling Derek Fisher. The Lakers starting point guard is shooting just .380 from the field, including under 30 percent of his threes in the month of December. Fisher is in his 14th year and his veteran presence and leadership cannot be discounted—he is an essential member of this team.
Now may be the time to increase Shannon Brown's minutes. He does not sport as good an assist-turnover ratio, but is capable of scoring both from the perimeter and by putting the ball on the floor.
Fisher is not part-and-parcel all of the uncertainty on this team. The Lakers lack depth under the basket. After Gasol and Bynum, the rotation falls apart with names like veteran Theo Ratliff and rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter. Luke Walton is a capable backup small-forward and Phil Jackson trusts him implicitly, but he doesn't have the body to make a difference underneath.
Sometimes basketball is a simple game: you have score more points than the other team. Bryant can't do it alone and needs reliable options at all four other positions. Bynum should see his minutes increase as the season goes on and therefore may be able to help. Gasol and small forward Ron Artest have performed as expected. The question mark offensively is at the point guard position.
It's something Lakers fans may not want to deal with, but it may just be time pass the torch to the next generation.