If you ask me, it's not looking good.
A quarter into the season, the Lakers showed that its dream season will not go without the bumps and kinks.Yes, they are one of the top teams in the NBA in terms of offense, but over-all, their play is far from championship caliber.
But let's look at the bright spots first:
- The Killer B's - The Lakers have found a good consistent bench rotation in the Killer B's (Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, and Shannon Brown). Brown has been the offensive sparkplug off the bench, thanks to his much improved outside shooting. Barnes and Blake have done what is expected of them-- play good defense, make outside shots, and don't do too many mistakes. This group makes people forget about the Bench Mob of the past.
- Kobe's Minutes - Did you know that Kobe Bryant is playing five minutes less this season per game compared to the previous season? As of now, Kobe is playing 33.4 minutes per game, his lowest since the 1997-1998 season. Coach Phil Jackson knows that at age 32, Kobe Bryant needs close monitoring of minutes played. And it seems to have worked in the past: 32 is the age when Michael Jordan's minutes of the Chicago Bulls were reduced by Jackson.
- Lamar Odom - His tour of duty for the USA team at the World Championships may have improved Odom's offensive efficiency. Odom's scoring average is up by 50 percent and he is shooting less three balls for the season. Odom has emerged as a reliable third option for the Lakers for sure.
- Pau Gasol - Not to take away anything from Kobe Bryant, but Pau Gasol has been the Lakers' MVP so far. In the absence of Andrew Bynum, Gasol has held the fort in the paint for the Lake Show, upping his rebounds and blocks numbers. There was a stretch at the start of the season where Gasol was a constant 20-10-5 threat. It's surprise that the Lakers went on an eight-game winning streak then.
Now for the bad:
- Big Man Woes - Outside of Gasol and Odom, the Lakers are thin in the middle. Andrew Bynum is still out, with Theo Ratliff joining him in sick bay. Derrick Caracter has been doing his best Ronny Turiaf impersonation as an undersized big, with no results.
- Team Defense - No doubt that the Lakers can out-shoot their opponents, but the team has shown little interest in the defensive end on a regular basis. The team did a pretty decent job in the first couple of weeks into the season, but struggled as of late.
- The Four Game Losing Streak- A first since the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol, the Lakers went from a unstoppable juggernaut to middle-of-the-pack contender during this swing. Yes, there were pretty bad breaks, but the team lost games it should have dominated over weaker opponents.
- Ron Artest - Can someone look for Artest's shrink? Ron-Ron has been an offensive disaster this season, with his shooting taking a huge dip. 36 percent shooting from the field and seven points for a starter are unacceptable numbers.
- Weak Schedule - Interesting thing about the Lakers's past 24 games: You will not find the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks, the Orlando Magic, the Boston Celtics, and the Miami Heat. If you ask me, the 17-7 record is a little inflated.
It's still early and the Lakers have shown they are capable of making a complete 180 when it matters. What I don't want to see is this becoming a trend going to the All-Star break.
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