NBA: Should the Los Angeles Lakers Be Concerned Right Now?

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NBA: Should the Los Angeles Lakers Be Concerned Right Now?
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

They currently hold the third-best record in the Western Conference, they are eight-and-a-half games behind the Spurs and were sitting in roughly the same position last year, stat- and record-wise, as they are right now.

And yet everyone is calling for changes and players to be traded away, specifically Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum.

However, I believe, for the most part, the team's core itself is fine. This is just what happens after winning back-to-back championships and suffering through some injuries.

The team is no stranger to adversity, and if the last two years were any proof, they will be able to get over it on their quest for a third straight championship. Andrew Bynum has held up decently so far this season with his numbers not taking much of a dip, even after missing two months of action.

One of the problems that I feel that needs to be addressed after watching several games versus some of the top-tier teams—potential playoff matches—is a lack of ball control turning into turnovers, weak half-court defense and the lack of desire to finish out games. The Lakers do not come off as 100 percent focused each and every game, and they will need to be if they want that third straight ring.

They currently have one of the best closers in the game in Kobe Bryant; however, they have struggled down the stretch in the fourth quarter, ultimately costing them some key victories, which could have drastically changed their record for the better.

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The Lakers have nine wins against the current top eight teams, compared to five losses. They have wins over Oklahoma City and Portland, are even against Denver at one apiece and winless against San Antonio and Dallas. Several potential playoff matchups are at stake here, with games down the road that will be key in ensuring advancement in the postseason.

Another issue is the defense down in the paint, strongly highlighted by Antonio McDyess' game-winning rebound earlier this month which went uncontested, putting the Spurs up by one to end the game, 89-88.

Everyone remembers very well the defense provided by Ron Artest last season, mainly against Kevin Durant and Kevin Garnett, which helped lead the Lakers to their second straight championship. Lately, Artest's offensive slump hasn't helped any and his defense has grown questionable.

If you are going to repeat three times, these small crucial items need to be addressed and resolved. So far this season, 13 games were decided by five points or less and the Lakers won six of those games.

At 46 percent, that is not an encouraging number to look at when we know that the playoffs are not won many times by double digits. However, looking at the team numbers stacked against the league, it's encouraging to see the Lakers are up in almost every single category.

Concluding, the Lakers need to get Artest back into his postseason-style play, tweak their defense a little, pick better shots and handle the ball better—all basic basketball ideology—and we will celebrate another Laker championship this season.

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