Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
With a quarter of the season gone, are the Lakers still a title contender?
Steve Aschburner: There still is lots of season and lots of Steve Nash left. Look at it this way: Last winter, the New York Knicks were 8-15 in a lockout-shortened schedule when Jeremy Lin exploded and salvaged 2012-13 for them. Injury snuffed what was left of Linsanity on March 24, yet New York went 12-5 over the final month and grabbed the East’s No. 7 seed before losing to eventual-champion Miami. So I’m supposed to believe that Nash, a Hall of Famer-to-be reunited with his old coach and with weapons such as Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard at his disposal, can’t revive L.A. in similar fashion? I understand the concerns about age, chemistry and most of all defense but nah, I’m not hitting the panic button. Yet.
Fran Blinebury: We might at be at the quarter pole in the season, but the last time I checked, Steve Nash has played only two games and Pau Gasol is now on the shelf with those knees that have been ailing since training camp. I’d suggest that before writing off the Lakers completely, we give them a chance to put their full complement of healthy players on the court in Mike D’Antoni‘s system. April is still a long way off.
Jeff Caplan: The Lake Show certainly isn’t making it easy to keep it on the air. If this thing were a TV show it’d be up for early cancellation, especially after Tuesday’s disgraceful showing at Cleveland, one of the league’s worst home teams. Not to mention Sunday’s dismal home loss to Utah, which is one of the worst road teams. But, let the episodes play out. At some point, and maybe it was Tuesday, this thing has to bottom out and the long climb out will begin. Let Steve Nash get back, allow Pau to get his head and knees on tight and let’s see what happens. With each mounting loss it gets tougher, but, alas, it’s still early. It won’t be forever, but it is now.
Scott Howard-Cooper: While I see the problems, I also see a lot of time left on the schedule. Are the Lakers close to where they need to be to be a contender? Obviously not. They have the same chances right now that Dwight Howard does of leading the league in free-throw accuracy. But they can get there. (The Lakers can, not Howard at the line.) Any team where Pau Gasol is the fourth-best player has a chance to make a run.
John Schuhmann: Well, we haven’t reached the trade deadline yet, so I can’t count them out entirely. But as currently constructed, I don’t think they’re better than the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers or Grizzlies. Their perimeter defense is just awful and that’s not a problem that Steve Nash (or Mike D’Antoni, really) can fix. And as I’ve said before, they don’t have the 3-point shooting needed to run D’Antoni’s offense so well that they can make up for the defensive shortcomings.
Sekou Smith: As brutal as they have been at times this season, TIME is the one thing the Lakers have on their side. Their title-contending status will depend largely on the humongous gamble they are making on Steve Nash swooping in and rescuing this current mess of a team we’ve observed in his absence. What makes me think the Lakers still have a shot to be a title contender is the fact that a true measure of a team with those sorts of aspirations isn’t taken before the All-Star break. All the Lakers have to do is survive until then, stay in the playoff mix. No one is winning a title by Christmas or even Valentine’s Day. So I’m preaching patience, once again, until at least 2013 (calendar year).