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Any stat you cite this early in the season is the definition of small sample size theatre. Even if you start to see trends developing in the numbers, a stretch of a few games can alter them significantly and make an grand proclamations about what a team is look silly. In other words, don’t get too caught up in the numbers — even the Lakers’ awful ones on defense — just yet. Yes, some of what we’ve seen so far will end up having staying power, but expect fluctuation in what the stats say for at least a few more weeks when the samples get bigger.

In saying this, however, it’s not too early to say that something, as it stands today, is surprising. I mean, even if it’s only been six games, if a statistic or performance is unexpected, it’s fair to say so. Which leads me to the Lakers’ offensive efficiency:

After all the hand-wringing about the Lakers’ offensive approach this year (which I have done plenty of), the fact the team is even sniffing an offense in the top half of the league is quite the feat. Even more so when you look at their opponents and where they rank in defensive efficiency this season:

  • Warriors: #1
  • Rockets: #2
  • Hornets: #10
  • Suns: #14

While I don’t expect the Lakers to remain a top 15 offense all year, there are some interesting early trends that are serving as the backbone for their current ranking.

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I am going to keep this short and sweet because, frankly, that is all I have in me today.

The Lakers are back in action after not playing since Tuesday and hopefully the time off did them some good. While there’s an argument to be made that what the team really needed was to get back on the floor and try to get their first win as quickly as possible — Kobe, in fact, made this argument — I’m on record as saying the time off would be of more benefit. This team has been putting together longer stretches of functional basketball, but they are still a ways from refining their collective games. Hopefully the time off afforded them the practice time and film sessions to get them closer to being able to get that first win.

To put it as bluntly as possible, this game offers their best chance for at least a couple of weeks. The Hornets are clearly the better team and have a .500 record to show for their efforts, but the Lakers are at home, rested, and as motivated as they can be to get this win. They will need a strong effort on both sides of the ball, but with the Hornets playing on Friday and traveling cross-country yesterday, they are about as ripe as they can be to take an L.

This doesn’t mean the Lakers can take anything for granted or think they just need to show up. The Hornets possess a top 5 defense and post oriented offense that could give the Lakers issues. Especially troubling is how they have three capable defenders — Lance Stephenson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Gerald Henderson — to defend Kobe well, which could prove daunting to the Lakers’ offensive attack should they need an extra boost from #24 in this game. If Kobe has a hard time getting buckets, it will take strong efforts from Jeremy Lin, Jordan Hill, Boozer, and the rest of the role players to be big enough threats to open up the floor for Kobe later on.

Defensively the Lakers need to corral the Hornets’ trio of Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson, and Stephenson. The Hornets love to go to Al on the block and he will look to isolate against Hill/Boozer/Davis/Sacre to try and get buckets. Al is as crafty a post player as you’ll find in the league and his array of pivots and ball fakes can drive his defender batty. Hill and Davis, especially, will need to defend well, but do so without fouling as the last thing the Lakers will want is to give the Hornets free points at the line when they’ve shown that their offense will struggle at times.

As for Kemba and Lance, the Lakers must really take a team approach to slowing these guys down. Kemba can be excellent in isolation if he starts to get hot, but is even more dangerous when he can get space off the screen and use the threat of his jumper to get the defense off balance. The Lakers must manage him at the point the point of attack and turn him into a passer first, not allowing him to find his rhythm as a scorer.

As for Lance, he has an all-around game, but has not been the scoring threat you’d think to start the year. However, against the Lakers’ struggling wing defense, he will likely look to be more aggressive in looking for his own tonight and the team must respond accordingly. Like Walker, Stephenson can find his groove quickly and can hurt defenses out to beyond the arc. If he starts to hit his jumper, it will open up his penetration where he can do damage as a scorer and a passer when the defense collapses. Best to not let him find his stride at all.

Again, this is the Lakers’ best chance to get a win until the Thanksgiving Holiday. A couple of the players have said, in no uncertain terms, that they expect to win this game. But that’s just talk. Their games better be ready to back up those words or what is already an ugly start to the season may get much worse in the coming weeks.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

I don’t think Steve Nash owes anyone any explanations about how hurt he is or what he’s going through physically. While an instagram video of him hitting balls at the driving range caused a stir, it’s only a certain type of irrationality that would equate hitting a golf ball to being able to play basketball in the NBA. Yet, after some loud criticism and questions about how healthy Nash really is have persisted, Nash took to his facebook page to explain what he is going through physically. Below is his full statement — one he called an “Open Letter to Lakers Fans” on twitter — from his page:

I definitely don’t want to be a distraction, but I felt it best everyone heard from me in my own words.

I have a ton of miles on my back. Three buldging disks (a tear in one), stenosis of the nerve route and spondylolisthesis. I suffer from sciatica and after games I often can’t sit in the car on the drive home, which has made for some interesting rides. Most nights I’m bothered by severe cramping in both calves while I sleep, a result of the same damn nerve routes, and the list goes on somewhat comically. That’s what you deserve for playing over 1,300 NBA games. By no means do I tell you this for sympathy – especially since I see these ailments as badges of honor – but maybe I can bring some clarity.

I’ve always been one of the hardest workers in the game and I say that at the risk of what it assumes. The past 2 years I’ve worked like a dog to not only overcome these setbacks but to find the form that could lift up and inspire the fans in LA as my last chapter. Obviously it’s been a disaster on both fronts but I’ve never worked harder, sacrificed more or faced such a difficult challenge mentally and emotionally.

I understand why some fans are disappointed. I haven’t been able to play a lot of games or at the level we all wanted. Unfortunately that’s a part of pro sports that happens every year on every team. I wish desperately it was different. I want to play more than anything in the world. I’ve lost an incredible amount of sleep over this disappointment.

Competitiveness, professionalism, naivetĂ© and hope that at some point I’d turn a corner has kept me fighting to get back. As our legendary trainer Gary Vitti, who is a close friend, told me, ‘You’re the last to know’ – and my back has shown me the forecast over the past 18-20 months. To ignore it any longer is irresponsible. But that doesn’t mean that life stops.

This may be hard for people to understand unless you’ve played NBA basketball, but there is an incredible difference between this game and swinging a golf club, hiking, even hitting a tennis ball or playing basketball at the park. Fortunately those other activities aren’t debilitating, but playing an NBA game usually puts me out a couple of weeks. Once you’re asked to accelerate and decelerate with Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving it is a completely different demand.

I’m doing what I’ve always done which is share a bit of my off-court life in the same way everyone else does. Going forward I hope we all can refocus our energies on getting behind these Lakers. This team will be back and Staples will be rocking.

When news of Nash needing to miss the season came out, I wrote about how fans are entitled to be disappointed in Nash’s Lakers’ tenure, but we should never lose sight of the fact that no one is more disappointed than Nash himself. He was the one putting in the work to try and return, the one whose body was failing him, who suffered a setback every time it looked like he might have turned a corner. To find out now that he has the types of ailments he has — ailments that, seemingly, could affect the quality of his life moving forward — it seems even more silly to try and take Nash to task for not being able to compete in the NBA for the team we root for.

Injuries happen. They suck and are a disappointment to everyone involved. For the team paying the salary, the fans who want to see this player on the court, and the player who wants nothing more than to compete with his teammates. For Nash, the Lakers, and their fans things didn’t go the way anyone would have wanted. And while I don’t think he needed to write what he wrote to explain things to fans (or anyone else) who questioned him, I am glad that he did set the record straight.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  November 6, 2014 — 63 Comments

The Lakers are at the beginning of a nice — and needed — break. They opened the season playing five games in seven nights (including four in the season’s first five nights) and have gone winless in the process. They do not play again until Sunday and can use this time off to rest their bodies and their minds, get a bit healthy, and fine tune what they are doing on both ends of the floor to try and get better results on the floor.

Though the team still hasn’t won, they are getting closer. The most recent game against the Suns was fairly close throughout and if not for some missed FT’s (fixable) and some defensive lapses (not as much) the team could have stolen that game. It’s these little mistakes that need correcting, especially for a team with absolutely no margin for error. They simply cannot afford to miss a dozen FT’s or be careless with the ball or not box out or any other number of small things and win game.

So, it’s simply on this group to start to get these little things right more often. Now, on to other thoughts…

*Though the Lakers are winless (and maybe because they are), Kobe truly is playing quite hard. In the Suns game he jumped over the first row of fans sitting courtside while logging 44 minutes on the night. Baxter Holmes of ESPN LA discussed this relentlessness.

*Sticking with this topic, an interesting twist to these media-generated Kobe talking points is how they can be interpreted by his teammates. This is a variable some might not often think of when playing with Kobe.

*Kobe says he heard the rumblings that he/the team should explore trade options. He pretty much squashed that idea in this column by Marc Spears.

*Detailing the Lakers mismatched roster. This is a topic I also explored some when I previewed this season.

*If the Lakers do not win their next game on Sunday, their difficult schedule could see them go without a win through Thanksgiving. Welp.

*Just because I like watching it:

*While the finish got all the pub, the set up got me just as excited. This is a move that Kobe has made so often and one that is one of his trademarked attacks that I will remember for ever. When he makes the catch, he turns and faces and then sets up the triple threat. With his back foot anchored, he swings the ball through to his right hand and then simultaneously puts his down his dribble while stepping through with his pivot foot. This allows him to avoid the traveling call and get even — and the by — his defender. Once he has that step, it’s curtains. There’s an old saying in basketball that “baseline is death”, but Kobe has made a career out of navigating that sliver of real estate and making his defender pay time after time. And he’s still doing it in year 19.

*When a team is bad, it is natural to look ahead to the future for hope of improvement rather than focusing on the present and getting more depressed. In saying that, expect there to be a lot of articles/columns/blog posts about what the Lakers may do next summer to improve the team. For example, an article saying they may go hard after Rajon Rondo. Expect more just like this one over the course of this year.

For the second time in the team’s first five games the Lakers face the Suns tonight in a battle of Pacific Division foes. The Lakers will look to avenge their 20 point loss on the season’s second night while the Suns will look to join the division’s other teams by inking their third win on the year. As an aside, the Lakers are currently the Western Conference’s only winless team and join the the Pistons, Magic, and 76ers as the only teams in the league who have yet to earn their first W. They are also the only Pacific Division team who is currently under .500. I could do this for a while, so I will move on to other things.

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