“Just another chapter in a difficult season,” said the normally optimistic Steve Nash following another drubbing, this time at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. The statement has more resignation than positivity in it, and considering it’s coming from Steve Nash – a man with a storied history of having to stay positive – that’s an extremely concerning factor.
The Los Angeles Lakers organization, to their credit, have tried everything bar blowing up the roster to get this season to work.
They’ve replaced the coach, shifted the line-ups (fun fact: Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are the only Lakers to start consistently this season) and even had an audious team-meeting before the Memphis game to air all their issues. Following this clensing, transforming meeting that was supposed to bring together the Lakers as one, they promptly got hammered by the Grizzlies and went back to the LA with their tails between their legs.
The world has given their explanations for the Lakers failings, and oh my, we have tried. The real issue for the Lakers is that there’s simply too many issues to diagnose and saying, “If they play Gasol/Howard/Nash/Jamison right, they’ll be fine,” is fruitless. To start looking anything like the championship calibre squad we expect, they need to significantly boost their team defense, find a reliable scoring option other than Kobe Bryant, cut down on turnovers, greatly lift their transition defense and get some consistency from their bench. Sound like much? Yes, I know. It is.
But really, none of these proposed improvements matter if the individuals aren’t in the right mindset to enact them. For all of D’Antoni’s coaching faults, he’s been willing and able to try to motivate his team. Their ‘season’ has started two or three times already but the team has failed to show any sense of urgency. It appears that perhaps most of this Lakers outfit has checked out and given up on the season, just as many fans already have. Steve Nash played hard and tried to smile in Phoenix, even when he knew the only thing the Suns could win was the lottery. Dwight Howard doesn’t appear to be helping the Lakers’ cause, although it can be significantly difficult to decipher fact from fiction when ‘a source’ chimes in reports on what went down behind closed doors.
It would have been laughable to once suggest Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace would be the most inspired of all the Lakers, but that seems to be the case for this Lakers outfit. While Kobe can be hypercritical and aggressive, and Metta World Peace can be…Metta World Peace, they’re the only two individuals who have played their hearts out for the Lakers all season. There was another in Jordan Hill, but he’s gone down for the season with a hip injury.
With a three games at home approaching for the Lakers, they need to do something, anything to inspire hope and winning would be the best way to start. Dwight Howard’s back and shoulder may still be beat up which could excuse his diminished play, but his despondant effort and destructive comments are inexcusable. At the start of the season, he said he’d learned lessons from his Orlando Magic trade saga, but seems to be repeating all o those mistakes again this season besides requesting a trade and axing the coach – which are probably two things most Lakers fans would wish he’d do this time around.
So, is there any hope left for this season for the Los Angeles Lakers? Maybe, but probably not. At 17-25, they’re hovering around the same mark that Golden State, Detroit and Cleveland sat at last season. Those teams finished the season ranked 22nd, 26th and 29th in wins respectively. Of course, those teams didn’t feature two All-Star starters, one of the most skilled post players in the NBA and one of the best passers in the league, but it shows how far the Lakers sit out of the playoffs at this point in time.
With 40 games remaining, the Lakers now need to go 28-12 to simply match the 45 expected wins to make the Playoffs in the West. They face the Thunder twice, the Clippers twice and encounter San Antonio, Miami and Memphis once. Pencil in a March clash with the Bulls who may have Derrick Rose back and you have eight very difficult matches. There’s a lot of challenging but winnable games within their run home including an away game against Brooklyn, a trip to Boston two days after that and a back-to-back on the road against Dallas and Denver.
If the Lakers fall short of the playoffs, don’t doubt heads will roll. This is an organization that sacked a head coach after 5 games and is very well-versed with the term ‘accountability’. The Lakers are reminiscent of the New York Jets, only a lot more disappointing – while they’re still a mathematical chance to make the Playoffs halfway through the season, it feels like we’re just waiting for the decisive loss that ends the season.
The playoffs are looking impossible for the Lakers, but one would have said it would be impossible for four future Hall of Famers to be 17-25 at this point in the season. If Steve Nash regards their latest loss as another chapter, then perhaps it’s time for the Lakers to change books and start with the line, “It all began with a win…”