As of today, the Lakers are 13th in the league in scoring, which is a good thing, at 101.1 points per game on 43.9 % shooting. The Lakers are also 29th (!!!) in points allowed, which is bad, at 102.9 points per game. Their leading scorer is Pau Gasol at a 14.3 points per game, the 2nd lowest mark of the big man’s career, followed closely by Nick Young at 14.2. The Lakers stand at 9-9 without their star Kobe Bryant and mostly without aging, injured point guard Steve Nash. All things considered, this isn’t the worst place to be.
The Lakers are currently 4th in the Pacific Division, but only 2.5 games back of the 12-7 Los Angeles Clippers. While Golden State is currently in 2nd with an 11-8 record. For the Lakers, this is exactly where they hoped to be. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s face paced offense has proven to be much more effective this season. The personnel seem to fit seamlessly into what D’Antoni had envisioned for this team. It seems that every game a new Laker steps up and contributes in a big way. One game it’s Shawne Williams. Another it’s Xavier Henry. Another it’s Wesley Johnson. It’s even been Robert Sacre. As harshly as people judged Mike D’Antoni for being a poor coach last season, he has done an excellent job with what many outsiders felt were inferior pieces. Coach D’Antoni has put players in their best position to succeed.
Although the loss of Jordan Farmar to a hamstring injury is certainly a significant setback, the potential return of Kobe Bryant only makes the Lakers that much more interesting. Although Bryant has stated he wouldn’t play Friday night against Sacramento, it is possible he will return within the upcoming week. It will be interesting to see how Kobe performs with this group that, for the most part, has been playing well. The second unit undoubtedly has great chemistry, but the starters certainly lacked a certain punch.
As I mentioned earlier the Lakers are shooting 43.9% as a team. Kobe shoots 45.4% for his career. This addition should potentially help the Lakers points per game increase significantly if Kobe works well with the D’Antoni system. On the flip side, if he plays out of the offense like Carmelo would do in New York, the Lakers could see their productivity actually drop. It’s going to be interesting to see which way this goes.
Steve Nash has also been spotted at practice, but is still very much unknown when it comes to his return. With Jordan Farmar out, the potential return of Steve Nash, to a bench role most likely, would be more than welcome. The Lakers went from having a three point guard rotation to a one point guard rotation. Xavier Henry has been spotted in practice running the point position, as the Lakers have no others on their roster. With the cutting of Elias Harris last week, the Lakers do have room on their roster for a potential point guard, although they may elect to just wait it out.
Considering the injuries and games they’ve squandered, .500 isn’t a bad place to be. The division race is still close and the team’s best player is getting tantalizingly close. For all those in favor of the Lakers tanking, it is hard to imagine the Lakers out-sucking Utah, Sacramento, and Milwaukee and obtaining one of those guaranteed top 4 picks. Those three teams have combined for 11 wins compared to the Lakers 9. So what is the harm in the Lakers playing a fun brand of basketball and shooting for the playoffs? This team is potentially a trade away from being really interesting. Once December 15th passes, the Lakers can trade those recently signed, such as Chris Kaman, for another player who can play and help them.
So early on in this season, the Lakers should be happy with .500. Their season can still go well, or it can go in a direction towards totally rebuilding. That’s a good thing.