With a 5-7 record, the Los Angeles Lakers’ season has been filled with peaks, valleys, and everything in between.
They began by defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in the first game of the season, but then lost three of their next four games.
Kobe Bryant took part in a light practice on Saturday, but the date of his return remains unknown.
In his absence, the Lakers have battled to remain close to .500, receiving unexpected contributions from role players, while being let down by veterans believed to be dependable.
With Steve Nash being in and out of the lineup because of lingering back soreness, Steve Blake has emerged as a reliable option at point guard.
Blake leads the team with an average of 7.3 assists per game, and has notched at least 10 assists in the Lakers’ last four games. For some perspective, Blake has 87 assists on the season, and is well on his way to surpassing the 173 he totaled during the 2012-2013 season.
While it is still early in the season, Jordan Hill is on track to earn the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. After struggling to crack the rotation through the first two weeks, Hill has played at least 30 minutes in the last three games.
Hill’s most impressive performance came in the Sunday victory over the Detroit Pistons, where he scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. His energy and ability to rebound the basketball has greatly helped a Laker defense that’s had its fair share of troubles.
Jodie Meeks has long been known to be a spot up shooter. At times last season, it was painfully evident he was a one-dimensional player on the offensive end.
While Meeks has been a lethal 3-point shooter, making 49% of his attempts from outside, he’s shown the ability to put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim.
Meeks’ average of 13.7 points per game is good for the team lead.
Overall team defense
It was believed the interior of the Lakers’ defense would suffer from Dwight Howard no longer being part of the team. The hope was the additions of versatile wing defenders would help offset the loss.
The Lakers are allowing an average of 103.8 points per game, good for 25th in the NBA, and opponents have reached the 100-point mark in six of their 12 games. The Lakers surrender an average of 25.8 assists per game, which has them ranked No. 29.
The aforementioned Hill has been a boost on the defensive end, but one player can only do so much.
When the Lakers signed Nick Young they knew they were getting an offensive-minded player who was a volume shooter. The scouting report on Young is he’s never seen a shot he didn’t like.
Living up to his reputation, Young is averaging 10.2 field goal attempts per game. Since being moved to the bench, his level of production has improved, but he continues to battle bouts of inconsistency.
Perhaps now that it appears Mike D’Antoni is intent on bringing him off the bench, Young will soon get into a rhythm.
Pau Gasol spent the offseason receiving treatment and getting rest. Howard left for Houston, and it meant Gasol could return to the block, where he’s most comfortable.
Howard’s departure appears to have made no difference on Gasol’s placement on the court.
Yes, some of that can be attributed to D’Antoni’s desire to spread the floor, but the fact of the matter is Gasol too often sets a screen and floats to the outside instead of rolling to the paint.
With Bryant still not with the team, Gasol was set to emerge as the primary option on offense. His production has not been in line with what you would expect from a player with his skill set.
Furthermore, it was revealed Gasol is suffering from a sore left foot, which is troubling considering he spent much of the summer off of his feet.
Steve Nash’s arrival in Los Angeles has been everything but productive. He suffered a broken leg in the second game of the season last year, and has never fully recovered.
Nash managed to appear in six games before exiting the game early on Nov. 10 and subsequently being shut down for at least two weeks with a nerve root irritation.
The key words in Nash’s injury report are “at least.” The Lakers diagnosed Nash with a similar prognosis last season and his recovery time kept getting pushed back.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise if Nash doesn’t return until Jan. 1.
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