You know how far a car can go when it has a questionable engine? Not far at all and this is the dilemma currently facing the Los Angeles Lakers. Many have written about the Lakers’ defensive struggles, which are indeed a concern while also an issue that may not be remedied any time soon, especially with Mike D’Antoni at the helm.
So, what is a team that can’t stop anyone when it matters to do? Try to outscore your opponent in a shootout. The problem is, without Steve Nash the Lakers don’t have an engine capable of driving the team to offensive prosperity. D’Antoni’s offense is built around the point guard position, and Nash won’t be walking through that door for at least another two weeks.
Nash’s replacements in the starting lineup –first second-year guard Darius Morris and lately veteran Chris Duhon – have shown flashes of decent play, but not enough to ease the play-making duties off of Kobe Bryant , nor have they been able to score, averaging just 5.9 points per game as starters. As a result, Bryant is typically forced to take on both the scoring load and the primary ball-handling duties; not exactly a formula for success (the Lakers are now 1-10 when Bryant scores more than 30 points. Ouch).
Pau Gasol’s absence has shifted the focus of criticism off him for the time being and exposed some deeper issues many of us have tried to ignore; the Lakers currently just aren’t a very good team right now. L.A. has been starting third-string (at best) point guards to run the show and it resulted in a disappointing 9-13 start to a season where they were expected to contend for a NBA championship. Ambitions of a title run for this current Lakers team are approaching laughable proportions.
Even once Nash returns, the Lakers will still have similar issues with their bench. Morris and Duhon are okay in brief stretches, but neither has proven capable of initiating enough of an offensive flow to generate consistent points for the Lakers’ reserves. Also worth noting is the fact that Nash is 39; he won’t be playing for much longer. Nash will need to have an eventual successor.
The Lakers need to make some more major revisions to their roster at the point guard position specifically, sooner rather than later. There are capable options available; Toronto Raptors vet PG Jose Calderon can be had for the right offer, and his contract expires after this season. Delonte West may be a bit of a loose cannon but the scrappy combo guard is available as a free agent and may bring a needed edge to a Lakers team lacking energy.
In any case, something needs to be done in order to salvage the Lakers’ all-or-nothing season. There is time to turn things around, but the Lakers’ window is rapidly closing. Make a move, Lakers management. Do it now.