LOS ANGELES Our record is 7-8 right now, said Laker forward Metta World Peace. That means right now were a 7-8 team.
Leave it to MWP to say what most of us are thinking.
Fact is, they are a game under .500, and most of the time this season they have absolutely played down to their record. Sometimes, even lower, like the rancid offensive performance against Indiana last Tuesday. But while the effort is always there, this Laker team for whatever reason just isnt clicking every game.
Part of it is obviously a new cast of characters who are learning how to play with each other, and part of it is playing under three coaches and two offensive systems less than a month out of training camp. Theres also been the rash of injuries to contend with.
The teams top two point guards, Steve Nash and Steve Blake are still out with a fractured leg and abdominal strain, respectively. Pau Gasol's ego has been bruised and he hasnt looked anything like the All-Star and Future Hall of Famer he was just two seasons ago. And Dwight Howard still recovering from back surgery is literally in the middle of all of it, trying to figure out where he fits in. And hes OK with the transition right now, because he believes in the vision sold to him by Mitch Kupchak when he said yes to being traded to Los Angeles critics be damned.
I dont really pay attention to what anyone has to say, Howard said Thursday after practice. I just understand that down the road, later on in the season, were going to be a better team than we are now. And thats what were keeping our sights on; whats going to happen when were all healthy and once we learn this offense.
Right now, things are going to be a little bumpy, and I understand that, but if we continue to do everything right in practice and continue to practice hard and compete with each other, then were going to be fine.
Howard says its the little things that the team works on every day that are going to make the difference as the season progresses.
A lot of people dont see the extra possessions you can get; the steals and rebounds late in the game because we played hard and hustled, he said. And those are the little things that are going to make a big difference later on. They might not show up on the scoreboard or on (the highlight shows), but those are the plays that win games.
And improve your record to over .500.
Whos Hot: Who else but Kobe Bryant? So far this season, Bryant is averaging 27.7 points, 4.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting .502 percent nearly 50 percentage points higher than his career mark of .454. All of it while mostly playing facilitator, a spot he had hoped to move away from when Nash was signed. In the last four games, he averaged 31.8 points, 3.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals, including a 40-point, 10 rebound performance in the ugly 79-77 loss at home to Indiana. He did have ten turnovers, though, so hes no longer white-hot, just scorching hot.
Whos Not: Gasol continues to struggle worse than at anytime in his career. In the last four games hes averaging an abysmal 9.2 ppg and 7.7 rebounds. His shooting is drop-off-the-charts bad at 35.2 percent. No wonder the Pau-for-Amare Stoudamire trade rumors are popping up again. Question is, would the Knicks make the deal?
1. DAntoni is playing with fire every time he says, once Steve (Nash) comes back everything will work itself out. It may well turn out that way, with the Lakers going on a 15-1 run. But what if it doesnt? What if Nash gets hurt again? His age increases the probability that he will be injured again this season, and when that happens, whats to prevent the Lakers from imploding again? As great as Nash is at running DAntonis offense, he shouldnt have the fate of the season put on his shoulders. Time for DAntoni to convince the rest of the guys they can win with or without Nash especially since they might have to at some point.
2. Its time for Kupchak to scour the free-agent market for a lights-out shooter. Not a lot stands out right now, but a former Laker might be worth taking a look at Adam Morrison. A former NCAA Player of the Year, Morrison has been a bust in the pros. But theyd better find somebody who can put the ball in the hole and he would come cheap. This would be a risk-reward situation that would benefit the Lakers all the way. If he cant play its a relatively small investment. If he can, hell add another dimension to the offense.
3. Metta World Peace is not only having one of his better all-around seasons in recent years, hes become an interesting interview for the media. Not the goofycrazy interview he has been in the recent past, but a thoughtful, accessible player giving straight-up answers and expressing meaningful opinions about anything hes asked to comment on. Hes a go-to guy on and off the court now. Of course, theres always one thought in the back of your mind: When will he go Metta on somebody? As the subject of one of his Twitter tirades last season, he can get a bit personal. But everyone deserves a second or seventh chance, and for MWP, so far, so good.
Quotes of the Week
I have to take care of my responsibilities. I have to minimize my mistakes. I dont go home and look at it and say well, we missed 20 free throws and thats why we lost the game. I look at my mistakes and try to correct those. Bryant after committing 10 turnovers in a two-point loss at home to Indiana.
Geez, offensively that was not nice. That was ugly. DAntoni on scoring just 77 points against the Pacers.
Its taking a while for this team to be where it needs to be. We have the talent, we have all the tools, but we have to learn how to use that together. We have to learn how to play as one. Thats the only way were going to win. Dwight Howard when asked if he feels the team is progressing through the ups and downs.News and Notes
Every day talk seems to get around to The Steves and when theyll return. Blake is reportedly out for at least two more weeks, but after practice Thursday he was shooting and moving around a bit. So, I wouldnt be surprised if hes back in less than 14 days. As for Nash, small fractures can easily turn into large, lingering fractures ask Bill Walton. The Lakers have to be ultra-careful with Nash, who still has a lot of discomfort each time he tries to ramp-up his workouts. Hes listed week to week, but hes seemingly not close to returning.
While struggling through probably the worst 15-game stretch of his career and the nuisance of ever-present trade rumors, Gasol said hes happy that DAntoni is showing public support of his power forward. Its a big plus, Gasol said Thursday. Its important that your coach trusts you, wants you to be a big part of what hes trying to do and respects your game.
Many fans are wondering why the Lakers didnt re-sign Derek Fisher, now with the Dallas Mavericks. Simple: none of his current skill set fits in with a Laker team that is trying to move the ball rapidly and shoot it better. Up-tempo and D Fish dont blend well at this point in his career.
Friday vs. Denver, Sunday vs. Orlando, Tuesday vs. Houston and Wednesday vs. New Orleans. Sunday nights game against Orlando will be the first for Howard against the team that drafted him into the NBA. During the few times hes talked about his days with the Magic, hes reiterated one point each time he doesnt regret forcing a trade to the Lakers. Its what I had to do to make things better in basketball and in my life.
Prediction: Howard has his best all-around game of the year against the Magic at Staples Center.
Tower of Power?
MWP said it best: The Lakers are a 7-8 team and playing like a 7-8 team.