The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t used to being in this position. For a franchise and fan base that prides itself on contending for championships, this current version of the Lakers that should be ecstatic to just make the playoffs is uncharted territory. But the reality is that, simply put, the Lakers still aren’t a very good team, despite the return of veteran point guard Steve Nash. And given the pieces in place, their struggles shouldn’t be as alarming as they seem.
The Lakers (15-16) were hastily constructed this season in something similar to a Saturday afternoon pick-up team. Last season, the Lakers were good enough to secure a three-seed and advance to the second round of the playoffs, but they still had glaring holes in their roster. So management goes out and picks up an aging Nash and a rehabbing Dwight Howard to compliment their holdover starters Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. Mike D’Antoni was brought in to fix what Mike Brown couldn’t. The problem is the pieces really don’t compliment each other that well at all.
If you have ever played pick-up ball at the park or your local YMCA you’ve seen it happen before; someone picks up the best players on the sidelines in hopes of building a dominant team. Sometimes it works out in their favor, and other times all that talent gets ran off the floor by more cohesive units. The Lakers are currently experiencing the latter of that scenario.
Steve Nash said after the Lakers’ loss to the Philadelphia 76ers last night, “We’re struggling to make the kind of connectivity it takes to make a team a team. We look like a bunch of guys trying to learn each other.” And he’s spot on.
Whether it’s communication on the defensive end or proper balance on offense, the Lakers don’t do either well right now. Most of their 15 wins have come via their individual talent, because when you have three to four one-time All-Stars on the same team they’ll find a way to win at least some games here and there.
But that isn’t enough to compete in the NBA. Not when the likes of Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and others are playing great basketball at the moment. The longer the Lakers take to find chemistry together, the farther back they are falling in the standings.
Odds are that the Lakers will eventually figure it out and string together enough wins to qualify for the playoffs. Will that be enough to contend for a title? That’s doubtful, but even when a talented pick-up team plays together long enough they can become dominant. But time is running out for Los Angeles and their aging roster.