Does Anyone Think the Lakers Would Be 9-13 with Phil Jackson at the Helm?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IDecember 14, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 09:  Head caoch Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during the game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on December 9, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Jazz won 117-110.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Phil Jackson may not have been the cure for all of the Los Angeles Lakers' ailments at this point in the 2012-13 NBA regular season, but it's hard to imagine that the Lakers would be 9-13 after 24 games if Jackson were at the helm.

The Lakers began their latest road trip on Tuesday night with a 100-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which has unfortunately become the norm during Mike D'Antoni's short tenure as the team's head coach.

At least the Lakers have been consistent. They lose to the teams they are supposed to lose to and they lose to the teams they are supposed to beat.

Maybe a 9-13 record wouldn't bother a team like the Charlotte Bobcats or Detroit Pistons, but these are the Los Angeles Lakers we are talking about.

You know, the team with the NBA's leading scorer in Kobe Bryant and one of the game's greatest defensive forces roaming the paint in Dwight Howard.

It would be crazy to blame Bryant or Howard for the Lakers' latest loss to the Cavaliers, seeing that the ageless Bryant conjured up a 42-point gem, while Howard chipped in with a dominant 19 point, 20 rebound performance.

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In fact, if you simply glanced at Bryant and Howard's respective numbers so far, it's hard to imagine how the Lakers have lost more games than they have won.

Bryant averages 28.6 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting from the field, while a still unhealthy Howard averages 18 points, 11.7 rebounds and shoots 58.6 percent from the field.

Those are elite numbers by any standard, but the dominance of the Lakers' two best players is not reflected in their won-loss record.  It also doesn't help that the Lakers are without Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, who are both out with leg injuries.

According to D'Antoni and legions of Lakers fans, we will not get a true vision of what the Lakers really are until Nash returns and has had time to assimilate into the offense. 

But based on what we have seen so far, can Nash really turn everything around?

Of course Nash will make the Lakers offense run more smoothly and establish a consistent rhythm to the scheme.  Unfortunately scoring points is not the Lakers' problem, preventing other teams from scoring is.

After losses to Sacramento, Utah (twice) and now Cleveland, it should be painfully obvious that the Lakers are struggling to defend; the biggest question going forward is how to fix it.

Just don't count on D'Antoni for answers.

D'Antoni's entire reputation as a coach has been crafted on the offensive end of the floor, but his lack of attention to defense is usually ignored after strings of 100+ point games. At least when his teams are winning.

But the current Lakers look just as confused as they did under Mike Brown, and the fact that the team is four games under .500 for the first time in recent memory must have D'Antoni sweating just a little bit.

Lakers' president Jim Buss should be sweating right along with him since most people perceive him to be the reason that the Lakers passed over Jackson in favor of D'Antoni.

Most Lakers fans felt that Jackson returning to lead the Lakers to another three-peat was just a matter of course and, presumably, Buss' decision ended that dream.

So far, it looks like Buss was wrong.

Everyone assumed that D'Antoni would bring Showtime back to Los Angeles, but did we ever consider how important defense is in relation to winning a championship?

Nash's return will not fix the Lakers' perimeter troubles on defense, and Gasol cannot solve the team's issues in the paint when he returns either.

But, neither can D'Antoni.

The reason that D'Antoni has been at a loss to explain the Lakers' recent poor stretch against teams they should beat is because he doesn't understand the concept of defense.

It doesn't matter how many points you score if you can't prevent the opposition from scoring more, and that is a lesson that D'Antoni failed to learn during his days in Phoenix.

The Lakers may have been a frustrating bunch under Jackson at times, but one constant was solid defense.

Defense was always something that the team could fall back on during struggles.

Well, they are struggling right now and D'Antoni's calm demeanor on the sideline during the storm  doesn't inspire quite the same level of confidence as Jackson's often dis-interested manner when the Lakers were in trouble on the court.

Jackson had earned the right to look smug on the bench while his team struggled because he was capable of adjusting his strategy to meet the circumstances that his team was dealing with on the court.

It's much harder for D'Antoni to do the same thing when he doesn't really seem to have a clear understanding of what's going on.