Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 2/27/13
One day, it is Dwight Howard‘s shoulder. The next day, it is Kobe Bryant‘s excessive shooting, or his excessive passing. The day after that, it is the Lakers’ shaky transition defense. Game after game, the great mystery that is this Lakers team receives a new explanation. When they win, it is evidence that they should be better. When they lose, it is proof that they are as bad as they have looked all along. But the Lakers are really a whole lot easier to figure out than many people assume. They have not improved. From game to game they might, such as when Bryant went off Sunday with 38 points against the Mavericks, but then they come back the very next night and give up 33 fastbreak points to the Nuggets. Overall, despite winning four of their last six games and 11 of their last 16, the Lakers are just as mediocre as they have been all along. Their recent “improvement” is merely a boring mathematical trend. The Lakers entered Wednesday with a 28-30 record, three games behind the Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With two straight winnable home games coming up, the Lakers conceivably could reach .500 by the beginning of next week. And it will not mean jack squat. Based on the expected win-loss record compiled by Basketball Reference, the Lakers’ points scored and points against should give them a 31-27 record, a three-game turnaround from their actual record. Coaches love to say, “You are what your record says you are,” but for much of the year, the Lakers haven’t been. Now, more with the season more than two-thirds gone, they are gradually working their way up to that expected record. This is known as “regression to the mean,” and it is not nearly as encouraging as Lakers fans might like to believe. “Regression to the mean” refers to the statistical phenomenon in which extreme initial variables — like a basketball team with four All-Stars losing four of its first five games — eventually give way to normalizing variables, like winning 11 out of 16. It is dull, which is why this article does not dedicate more than a paragraph to explaining it, but it is the most concise way to explain the Lakers’ recent “improvement.” (If you really want to read a comprehensive analysis of the numbers, check out Tom Ziller‘s work at SB Nation.) The alternative is the Warriors, who have played well above their expected win-loss record all season and are now regressing — some might say “tumbling” — back toward the mean. In other words, the Lakers are not getting better. They are merely moving gradually up from awfulness to mediocrity. As if that were not discouraging enough, not even that “expected” win-loss record of 31-27 would put the Lakers into the playoffs. They would still be tied with Houston’s actual record, and trail in the season series 1-2. So while everyone agonizes over Howard’s shoulder and a shaky defense, the Lakers are turning out to be precisely what they should have been all along. They are an utterly average team on the fringe of the playoff picture, and still a monumental disappointment. Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Odell Beckham Jr. appears to take shot at Ben McAdoo

Report: Seahawks players feel Sherman bombshell story ‘nailed it’

Turkey: Kanter a member of terrorist group, issues warrant

Chad Johnson says Roger Goodell consulted him on touchdown celebration rule change

Kevin Durant is not to blame for the NBA’s lack of parity, and he knows it

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Khloe Kardashian called out Cavs fan who mentioned ‘curse’

Warriors’ Mike Brown: Steve Kerr may be back for the Finals

Dodgers transfer Andrew Toles and Scott Kazmir to the 60-day disabled list

Looking back at 40 years of women racing in the Indianapolis 500

U.S. national soccer teams to wear LGBT-themed jerseys to celebrate pride month

Mike Zimmer: Teddy Bridgewater still has ‘long ways to go’

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Box Score 5/26: Bring on the Finals

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Three Up, Three Down: Some surprises way out (NL) West

The 'Let's go to the videotape!' quiz

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Three Up, Three Down: Some surprises way out (NL) West

The 'Let's go to the videotape!' quiz

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker