Is Dwight Howard not raising his game to the level that’s needed from him? Is Pau Gasol really that bad, or is it just Mike D’Antoni and his system that’s ruining him? Should someone tell Kobe Bryant that the Los Angeles Lakers don’t win when he scores so many points? Is Steve Nash the thing that they’re actually missing?

Once again, the Los Angeles Lakers crumble in the face of creating a winning streak. They’re 8-9 this season, 7-5 at home. Lucky for them, things could have been much worse if they’d be taking this show on the road much more. Soon, as they play nine road games in December, including in Oklahoma City, New York, Houston and Denver.

So what can Mike D’Antoni do? The man isn’t exactly a defensive genius, while his offense seems to be struggling, moving from very effective nights to incredibly frustrating ones. Each time there’s a different person with the finger pointed at him, except for Kobe Bryant. The whole world sees something, but in Laker-land, their oblivious to the faults of their star.

Numbers sometimes lie: The Lakers are now 2-8 when Bryant scores more than 25 points (6-1 when he scores 25 or fewer). It’s the chicken and the egg. Is Bryant taking more on himself because those around him aren’t doing their job? Or are the Lakers losing these games because Bryant gets the devil on his shoulder talking to him, telling him he needs to take more shots, while everyone just takes a step back and waits for the buzzer to sound. Maybe one day we’ll get the answer to that one.

Dwight Howard is doing a good job on offense. He certainly looks like a man who has been working on his game during the summer, becoming more than a player who simply thrives on offensive rebounds and a favorable physical matchup against most big men in the league. He’s averaging 18.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game with 2.7 blocks. Maybe his numbers could be a bit better, but that’s not where the problem is.

It seems the Lakers have gotten it into their heads that the presence of Howard solves any defensive problems. That leads to… laziness, yes. Kobe Bryant can still shut down defenders when the mood and importance of the moment besets upon him, but that hardly happens anymore. Darius Morris finds himself in a situation he never expected to be. A starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, but unable to have a chance to run the show.

The Orlando Magic carved the Lakers D with pick n roll after pick n roll, and the understanding of how to attack those plays simply wouldn’t digest in the minds of the Lakers players. Not to mention the speed issue.

I think our problem is just not coming out with the intensity and the purpose that we need to have. … We’re slow right now. Just athletically, we’re struggling with young teams that run up and down.

So we’ve been through offense, defense, intensity and will. Maybe the problem is having an old team, and it isn’t going to get any younger when Steve Nash comes along. If that’s the real problem for these Lakers, than all the coaching changes in the world aren’t going to help. The answer? Hoping they simply become so efficient offensively, with Nash or without him, that defending won’t matter that much anyway, at least for now.

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