Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers sits behind the bench during a game
The Los Angeles Lakers are the first team to hit the 10-game mark in the NBA during the 2013-14 season, and this marker provides a moment to reflect on the season thus far.
The Lakers are not good on back-to-backs. The Lakers are 0-2 on the second night of a back-to-back this season, and the careless turnovers, poor transition defense, and late-game collapses were all present in the Lakers’ two losses. Last year’s Lakers were not much better, and the 2012-13 Lakers only swept one back-to-back, and that did not happen until their final back-to-back in April.
The Lakers miss Kobe Bryant. Bryant’s influence during the course of a game is invaluable, but the Lakers have particularly struggled late in games. Against the Spurs, the Lakers blew a big lead and crumbled at the finish. Against Atlanta, the Lakers blew a big lead in the final 12 minutes but managed to hang on. In Houston, Steve Blake’s game-winning 3-pointer was only necessary because the Lakers only scored three buckets in the last five minutes. In New Orleans and Denver, the fourth quarter collapses would have likely been cushioned by Bryant’s hunger late in games. Five of their 10 games thus far have left the Lakers longing for no. 24 in the final moments.
The Lakers are not as bad as most expected. Jordan Hill has been playing exceptionally well, Xavier Henry has emerged as an aggressive scorer, Jodie Meeks can actually make shots, Nick Young fills it up off the bench, Jordan Farmar is capable of starting, Blake is a beast on both ends, and Wesley Johnson is a freak athlete. The Bryant-less Lakers lack consistency and are still learning how to win games, but they have been close enough to win seven of the 10 games thus far—including a late collapse against the West-leading San Antonio Spurs. This team has quality and was not built to tank.
Starting 4-6 may not be a promising sign, but these Lakers are improving and should be better in their next 10 games. If the hope is to hold a .500 record until Bryant returns, this team is more than capable of achieving such a feat. When Bryant returns, the Lakers’ bench will conceivably become stronger. Ten games into the season, these Lakers have provided plenty of reasons to keep watching.