From Mark Medina, LA Daily News: This should have marked a time for Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak to enjoy the fruits of his labor. The Lakers spent this offseason acquiring an elite center (Dwight Howard), an elite point guard (Steve Nash), secondary scoring (Antawn Jamison) and 3-point shooting (Jodie Meeks). They didn’t trade Pau Gasol. And, by the way, Kobe Bryant still remains on the team. But the Lakers’ $100 million payroll hasn’t provided an immediate return on their investment. The Lakers (9-12) enter tonight’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers (4-17) in 11th place in the Western Conference. Long-term injuries to Nash (fractured left leg) and Steve Blake (lower abdominal strain) and a coaching change from Mike Brown to Mike D’Antoni prompted Kupchak to say “it’s impossible” to evaluate this team. Nor do these variables provide clarity on what will happen after Dec. 15, the first time teams can deal players they signed during the offseason.
From Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports: Steve Nash’s delayed return to the Los Angeles Lakers has more to do with nerve irritation in his lower left leg than the fracture he suffered, sources told Yahoo! Sports. Nash appeared set to return from a non-displaced fractured left fibula about three to four weeks ago. His fibula has healed well, but what caused the setback was a nerve irritation that surfaced in the leg during his rehabilitation, sources said. The nerve caused Nash pain any time he put pressure on it. The irritation is steadily improving for Nash and he is expected to play before the end of the month, sources said. Nash suffered the broken fibula on Nov. 1 against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers originally thought the injury was just a bone bruise, but an MRI showed worse.
From Ben Bolch, LA Times: The Lakers’ holiday to-do list is getting lengthy for a team that thought it had finished its shopping over the summer. Spending $46.5 million on Dwight Howard and Steve Nash has left surprisingly little under the tree six weeks into the season. This team still lacks more than just stocking stuffers. It needs major items such as improved defense, sustained effort and more effective communication on the court. Oh, and there’s one more thing that has to happen as the Lakers begin a four-game trip Tuesday in Cleveland. “Win,” Howard said Sunday after the Lakers sustained a 117-110 loss to the Utah Jazz, their seventh defeat in their last 10 games. “That’s the only thing on the list is to win.”
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: It’s been a pretty regular happening for the Lakers the past few games: The opposing point guard blows past Chris Duhon without much resistance. Dwight Howard sees it coming early (there’s a reason he’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year) and rotates over to cut off the lane — but then nobody helps the helper. Nobody makes the next rotation to pick up Howard’s man, or if they do it is late. Either way a big man gets a shot at the rim or there is a wide-open guy on the perimeter for a kick-out corner three. The Lakers defensive rotations are maybe their biggest weakness right now (outside of injuries, anyway) and if they are going to start winning that is the first thing that has to be fixed.
From Elizabeth Benson, LakersNation.com: The roller coaster of a season thus far is still in full throttle as the Lakers still look to find their way. The fans are still left to question which team will show up for a game. What are considered “for sure” wins are proving to be a challenge for the current roster to handle. However, this doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any glimmers of hope from the team this year. Additionally, their current struggles don’t mean that the Lakers are completely doomed, but rather represents obstacles that the team needs to overcome. We started off the week with the news that came out yesterday of Mike D’Antoni telling the media thatSteve Nash has a “possibility” to return to the lineup during the upcoming four game-road trip that kicks off Tuesday against Antawn Jamison’s old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. This doesn’t mean that Nash’s return is a definite for this week, but it is a huge step in the right direction. Laker fans have been hearing the “when Steve returns” excuse for weeks now, even from D’Antoni himself, especially after losses. While I believe that the absence of Steve Nash isn’t an excuse for some of the poor performances the Lakers have strung together this season, as Lakers Nation’s Carmen Vitali pointed out this weekend, building the team’s identity has yet to show its face and sure has been affected without the on-court presence of Nash.
From Ben R, Silver Screen & Roll: Three years ago during the Lakers’ championship seasons — good heavens, that seems like a long time ago — we were treated to a consistent phrase about how the Lakers handled the regular season: “margin of error.” In other words, it was a measure how many things could go wrong in any single contest with the Lakers prevailing regardless. The greater your team’s talent, comfort in the coach’s system, and so forth, the bigger your margin of error was. From a more cynical point of view, it was the degree to which the Lakers could coast and still win regardless, with the ’08-’09 season the pinnacle of this phenomenon. Missing Andrew Bynum for half the year, not having consistent three-point shooters, and the bench regressing were all mostly papered over by the fact that Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and whomever else decided to have a good night were awesome and most teams simply couldn’t compete with that. Against opponents that actually required a more thorough application of effort such as Boston or Cleveland, the Lakers responded appropriately. This is all relevant since a few years, several coaches, and a huge turnover of players later, the Lakers still are deep in this mentality despite the fact that the only player on the floor right now who was part of that team is Kobe.