|Everything is going to be JUST FINE. (Getty Images)|
In case you haven't been paying attention to the NBA this season and just decided to start reading some NBA blog news for the first time today, the Los Angeles Lakers are in a bad spot right now. A team with title aspirations heading into the season has sputtered out to a 15-20 start and hasn't solved any of the issues with the firing of coach Mike Brown and the hiring of coach Mike D'Antoni.
The Lakers have suffered through injuries, poor play on both ends of the floor at key points in close games and a certain malaise that seems to be keeping them from capitalizing on their assumed potential. Many fans are worried -- not just about the Lakers finding their way to compete in the playoffs but about them actually making the playoffs.
Don't include Jim Buss, the Lakers' executive VP of basketball operations, among those worriers. Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:
"How can you not believe in this team? This team is built to win and it's a very, very solid team," Buss said. "In my mind, we would not consider a temporary fix or blow it up. Why blow up something that we have a future with?"
Well, I can think of a few reasons why you wouldn't believe in this team, Jim. The injuries are a big concern. Dwight Howard's back was already an issue and now he's going to have to figure out how to come back quickly from a torn labrum in his shoulder? You also have Pau Gasol and his knees, which probably feel like soup after he runs up and down the floor a few times.
When you're a team built on exploiting the opponent with your interior size, you kind of need your interior size to play well. The Lakers haven't had that, and it's not crazy to think with the current injuries that they might not get it the rest of the season.
Then there is the whole issue of the defense. The Lakers have the 21st best defensive rating in the NBA. Or, if you want to put it another way, they're the 10th worst defense in the league. The Lakers are also the 10th worst defense at stopping the 3-point shot. Opponents make 36.8 percent of their 3-pointers against them, well above the league average of 35.7 percent.
On the offensive end, the Lakers are the second worst team in the NBA at free-throw percentage. Yes, their offense is among the best in the NBA (sixth best), but they can't seem to win games in which Kobe Bryant has to do a lot of scoring. Even with Bryant as the league's leading scorer right now, they're 6-14 when he tallies 30 points or better.
"I'm still excited about the team but injuries have played such a huge part in this. I'm not frustrated with the players at all," Buss said. "Am I upset that we might not make the playoffs? Of course."
"To panic?" asked Buss. "No, we're not going to panic."
Buss is right that injuries have played a huge part in this, and that makes it hard to judge this team fairly. But if the injuries look like they're going to be a problem all season long, you have to start wondering if things will get better.
Saying they're not going to panic -- you know, after they already panicked five games into the season by firing their head coach -- probably has more to do with a lack of options than an abundance of faith that things will turn around. Their biggest trade chip that they'd be willing to part with is Pau Gasol, but his $19 million price tag makes it really hard to move him. Factor in the injuries and his poor play and teams aren't exactly blowing up Mitch Kupchak's cellphone.
Maybe the Lakers won't suffer these injuries all season and will finally get to show what their stars can do when healthy and on the court together. And I get that the owner has to show some confidence in his team when things are getting worse and worse. However, to question why people are questioning this team seems foolish, even if it's a PR move.
(H/T - Ball Don't Lie)