Playing Panic or Patience with LA Lakers' Struggles at Midway Point

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 23, 2013

Nov 2, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24), center Dwight Howard (12) and forward Pau Gasol (16) react during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Lakers 105-95 Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

You don't need a doctor to tell you you're sick when you're vomiting uncontrollably.

The Los Angeles Lakers are seven games below .500 at the midway point of the season in an unforgiving Western Conference. It's time to panic whether you believe they'll turn it around or not. This is L.A.'s worst start since the Kobe Bryant era began, and even a much-improved second half may not be enough to reach the postseason.

Over the Lakers' last 11 games, the only teams they've beaten are the Cavaliers and the Bucks. Anyone with a pulse causes a problem for L.A., and Mike D'Antoni just isn't known for brainstorming solutions.

I wouldn't call it the biggest of deals if this was simply a slump heading into February. But the Lakers have failed the gain any sense of rhythm from the start of the year. The only bright spot has been a five-game winning streak in December, in which two of the wins came against the Bobcats and Wizards and one against the 76ers, who were missing Jrue Holiday.

Every time the Lakers put on a Band-Aid, the blood seems to seep through the padding.

We're at the point where it feels like that scene from Dumb and Dumber when they realize everything is going wrong. I'm picturing a distraught Kobe in the locker room, crumbling to his knees before shouting, "Pau Gasol has been demoted, we've lost 9-of-11 games, our pets heads are falling off!"

The Lakers are approaching rock bottom here, and if you're unfamiliar with the movie clip, take a minute to get familiar.

In related news, Kobe Bryant is tweaking. He's acting completely out of character, seemingly drunk on losing. The other night he tweeted a picture of himself dressed like a winter Gap model playing the piano

Days later he live-tweeted his own 81-point game from 2006. That just sounds like something NBAtv could get Shaq to do after he retired, not Kobe in the middle of a season. You wonder if he's just trying to come to terms with the fact that winning may not be in the cards anymore—like maybe it's time to start enjoying past success and experiencing new pleasures.

As of today, the Lakers have a head coach unwilling to adjust and a small window to win in both the short and the long term.

Short-term, they have to start winning yesterday if they want to reach the postseason. There are 41 games left and the Lakers are No. 12 in the conference. To put that in perspective, they're only 1.5 games up on the Sacramento Kings.

Long-term, this core doesn't have much time. The Lakers' nucleus is on the decline while the nuclei of its competitors are entering their primes.

The clock is ticking, problems are building, and nobody has a clue as to how to clog the leak. Panic mode has already been entered. The next step is hitting the ejection button.