Injured Los Angeles Lakers Pau Gasol #16 (L) and Steve Nash #10 watch from the bench in street clothes the game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on December 9, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Jazz won 117-110.
The Los Angeles Lakers have played 21 games this season. Considering there are 82 games in a regular season, the Lakers are through more than a quarter of the season, and little has gone right. Three coaches, losing records, lack of effort, injuries, and all-around disappointment. No, this is not a typo meant to describe the Clippers; the Los Angeles Lakers are that bad.
At the quarter pole, the Lakers have the 20th best record in basketball (out of 30 teams). The coaches, players, and fans point to a lack of defensive urgency. Through a quarter of the season, the Lakers allow an average of 98.7 points per game, ranked 18th in the league. Opponents are shooting 44.3 percent per game, putting Los Angeles at 14th best in the league.
Along with a lack of defensive identity and urgency, the other constant this season has been turnovers. The Lakers average 16.3 turnovers per game, second worst in the NBA. Kobe Bryant leads the team in turnovers at 3.8 per game. Dwight Howard is close behind, averaging 3.3 turnovers per game.
Bryant and Howard combined for 11 of the Lakers’ 17 turnovers against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, so the argument that the Lakers play down to their competition often falls flat. Numbers don’t lie, and statistically, the Lakers are exactly where they should be: out of the playoffs with a losing record.
With three quarter of the season remaining, the Lakers have shown some promising trends to build off.
The Lakers are averaging 101.8 points per game through 21 games. The Lakers only hit 100 points once under Mike Brown. Following Brown’s firing, the Lakers have surpassed 100 points on nine occasions and are now seventh in the NBA in points per game.
The Lakers are also seventh in the league in field goal percentage at 45.7 percent. Kobe Bryant has been a key contributor on the offensive end of the floor. Bryant is averaging an NBA-best 28.6 points per game. Bryant is also shooting career-bests in field goal percentage—48.2 percent—and three point percentage—39.8 percent.
Also, the Lakers’ bench has revealed itself to be a talented bunch.
Free-agent signing Jodie Meeks is averaging 6.8 points per game, but the sharp shooter is averaging 10.4 points per game over the last five games. Against the Thunder, Meeks scored 17 points in only 20 minutes.
Free-agent signing Antawn Jamison has struggled in his last two games, but the veteran forward is averaging nearly 14 points per game in his last nine games. Also, Jordan Hill has contributed 9.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game over his last four games. The bench has been providing solid contributions of late and should continue to do so once Pau Gasol and Steve Nash return from injury.
The Lakers were humiliated, beaten, and battered for the first quarter of the season. The team impatiently awaits Nash and Gasol to start a new chapter. That new chapter needs to be titled “winning.” Otherwise, Mike D’Antoni may not last until the halfway mark.