Surprised that the Los Angeles Lakers have been looking this bad early this NBA season? Then you haven’t been paying attention to the downward spiral this team has been in for the last three years, making their 23 points home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves something that was waiting to happen, and not even close to an upset.
Are the Lakers the worst team in the league? Probably not, as the Utah Jazz remain with no wins this season while the Lakers have managed wins over the Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks and the Houston Rockets; two Western teams that are more than just playoff caliber groups, and a Hawks team that might make the playoffs.
But they’re not 3-5 because of luck or missing out on some close games. There’s a void that no one can fill with Kobe Bryant gone from the team, but the escape of talent due to the bad decisions made over the last few years is above all else. No go-to-guy, no superstar, no system and no defense. A formula for disaster, and no one is guaranteeing them wins the moment Bryant returns. Scowls and death stares is more like it.
We came out soft. They made some tough shots, but they did score 47 points. And I don’t care what kind of shots they made. There just wasn’t enough intensity into the defense, and we paid for it.
Mike D’Antoni is used to seeing the Lakers like this. A borderline playoff team last year, it seems that they’ve taken another wrong turn this offseason and are heading towards their worst season in ages. Not just missing out on the playoffs, but looking like an embarrassment most of the time. Allowing 47 points in one quarter is exactly that – an embarrassment.
The worst defense in the league? Almost. Right now they’re 28th in opponents scoring, allowing 106.5 points per game. They’re 23rd in efficiency, giving up 1.028 points per possessions, and 22nd in opponents field goal percentage, allowing teams to shoot 49.2% from the field.
This team was built on the false hope that Pau Gasol and Steve Nash will carry young players and minimum contract deal guys until Bryant returns. It’s hard to say Xavier Henry and Jordan Hill have been doing most of the heavy lifting, but Gasol and Nash are just confirming what last season pointed at: They’re no longer All-Star caliber players, and it has nothing to do with the offensive system or the players they’re playing next to.
Gasol is averaging 11.9 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, but shooting only 36% from the field. Steve Nash is doing even worse, capable of playing less than 23 minutes a night. He’s averaging 6.7 points and 4.8 assists, not to mention an awful 26.1% from the field.
The D’Antoni system means you need speed, which is far from what the Lakers have on the court. Be it Pau Gasol or Chris Kaman at center, the pieces just don’t fit, and there’s no point guard to make it work. Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake have the occasional big scoring game, but both of them can’t play like a younger Steve Nash. The older version of Nash is just a waste of money, making over $9 million a year.
The only light at the end of the tunnel is Kobe Bryant, so far enjoying the money he’s making for watching court side. But when he returns, this team may be too far gone to be worth rescuing, and his dreams of an impossible sixth ring will be delayed, or buried forever.