What side of the bed will the Lakers wake up on today? They are the model of consistent inconsistency and, when all the facts are added up, a far better team than their current record.
This will not be a column that offers up any excuses for the Lakers' rather pedestrian 7-8 record. Some nights they have looked downright terrible, about as porous on defense as a crocheted sweater in the rain.
Their two-point loss Tuesday night at home to the Indiana Pacers only served to muddy the debate about whether this team is better suited to a half-court, triangle offense under Phil Jackson than it is to a fast-paced, up-tempo style under new head coach Mike D'Antoni.
Yet, on other nights the Lakers look like a team that's headed somewhere, possibly all the way to the NBA Finals. Their 115-89 blowout of the Mavericks in Dallas last weekend in front of the annoying Mark Cuban was their best performance of the season. And that was without Steve Nash, still sidelined with a broken foot and not expected back for at least a week.
So what gives with this team? And what makes them a better team than their very average record?
It all starts with talent. The Lakers have that in truckloads. What seems to make a big difference is the chemistry on the floor, who is playing with who and matchups with opponents.
The game in Dallas brought out the best in both Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, two new additions to the Lakers this offseason who had been mostly invisible through the early part of the campaign.
Jamison fits well into Coach Mike D'Antoni's hurry-up offense and his 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor in 30 minutes was by far the veteran's best effort of the year. Add to that 16 points (7-of-11) in 27 minutes in the loss to Memphis last Friday, and Jamison is beginning to resemble the scoring machine he's been throughout his long, productive 14-year NBA career.
Likewise, Meeks played quite meekly for the first 11 games, getting scant minutes and points (19 total in 11 games). In his last three games prior to Tuesday night's meeting with the Pacers, Meeks averaged almost 11 points, including 15 against the Kings and 11 at Dallas. More importantly, the 6'4", 25-year-old shooting guard hit on 8 of 16 (50 percent) of his three-pointers.
The Lakers came home 1-2 from a tough road trip, with the Dallas win being their first of the season away from Staples Center. Yet, they played a very good Memphis team fairly well till fading late in an eight-point loss.
The inconsistency was back in force on Tuesday night as the Lakers slogged their way to a 77-point night in which they shot just 31.6 percent from the floor and were a miserable 6-of-28 from three-point range. The Lakers also missed 20 free throws, going 23-of-43 from the charity stripe. And no, that is not a typo.
Heading into last night's boxing match with the Pacers, Bryant was shooting 51 percent from the floor this season, his best start ever after averaging a dismal 43 percent last year. And, despite flu-like systems and missing the team's shootaround earlier in the day, Bryant scored 40 points against Indiana which, coincidentally, was more than the rest of the entire Lakers team (37).
Bryant has been more efficient with shot selection and attributes it to the new coaching philosophy. "I think the system has a lot to do with it," Bryant said Monday via ESPN.com. "The floor is spaced out a little bit more. I can penetrate to the basket and get to the free throw line a lot more.
Well, at least one player on the Lakers has adapted to his new coach and been able to put the Phil Jackson non-hiring behind him.
An improving bench and tweaking of the rotations will certainly propel the Lakers from average to very good. But, as they once again proved Tuesday night, the Lakers are a major work in progress and no one is quite sure if they are moving forward or backward.
After 15 games, here is what we can decipher about the L.A. Lakers: Some nights they will run up and down the court, making one great athletic play after another and entertaining whatever arena they happen to be playing in.
And, other nights they will look more like the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989.
It's not definitive and it's not comforting. But it is the Los Angeles Lakers of 2012-13 and we all need to get used to it.
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