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Lakers lose 10 in a row. Whats wrong?

Well that rules out 70 wins. The new look LA Lakers are now riding a 10 game losing streak if you count the preseason. 0-2 in the regular season with two losses coming against the Blazers and the Mavericks. Not since Shaq came to the city of Angeles was excitement this high. Dwight Howard and Steve Nash‘s arrivals made Lakers fans salivate and drool and slobber all over themselves.

Thus far it has been a bit of a letdown, starting with the preseason. No team has ever gone winless in the pre-season and made it to the NBA Finals. The Lakers have made history with their 0-8 winless pre-season. And they have an opportunity to write it further if they can make it to the finals. Only one team to finish with a losing record in the preseason has won a championship in the past 11 seasons, the San Antonio Spurs in 2007, when they went 2-3. Every single preseason match the Lakers played this year was on their home court, except against the Clippers. So there isn’t much of an excuse for going 0-8. And when the Lakers play Clippers, its in the same arena, only with different logos and fans.

In their first game versus the Mavericks the Lakers lost mainly because of their poor free throw shooting, going 11 of 27 from the stripe. Gasol, Bryant and Howard scored 23, 22 and 19 respectively versus the Mavericks. It was an ideal scoresheet, balanced out. Only the total scores were not in the Lakers’ favour. Six of the Mavericks players finished in double figures against the Lakers. This only brings to mind the question; Is the Lakers’ bench is strong enough to carry the load when the starters rest?

Yesterday the Lakers lost to the Blazers 116-106. Although Dwight Howard had an outstanding game with 33 points, Steve Nash left early with a leg pain and could not return. He tried coming back on, but left after just one minute on court.

The Mavericks didn’t have their best scorer Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks still shot eight more shots than the Lakers. With all the offensive talent they have on the floor, Los Angeles’ most important goal should be to get plenty of shots during the game; the Princeton offence works against that effort. Charles Barkley has said of the Princeton offence: “I want my accountant from Princeton, I don’t want my damn offense from Princeton.”

In the Phil Jackson era, the Lakers were famed for playing the triangle offence. The Zen master was the most prominent proponent of that offence which left the Lakers soon as Mike Brown arrived. Now the Lakers run the Princeton offence. It’s designed to spread the scoring load around, but it doesn’t exploit Steve Nash’s prowess to the fullest. The Lakers have one of the best offensive lineups in the league, but the Princeton offence isn’t made for shots early in the shot clock. That leads to reduced possessions for the team. With a superior offence, ideally you want to be taking as many shots as you can in a match.

“I’ve just got to stop thinking so much and get up there and make them,” said Howard, who scored 19 points and 10 rebounds on his Lakers debut. Howard is the guy who got called for a 10 second violation at the free throw line. He stands there and broods.
Nash only had 7 points and 4 assists on his debut, and left the game early in his second match with a leg injury. “We just gotta continue to chip away, continue to play at it,” he said. “We just continue working on things, continue to get better and continue to plan to win. Just try to get better every day.”

Some can put this down to growing pains. Too many superstars on one team, all learning to gel with each other. The point guard is the most important position in basketball. And a good center is the rarest commodity in the NBA. In one swoop of an offseason the Lakers acquired the best center and one of the best point guards in the league. On paper the Dallas Mavericks have no business beating the Lakers without Dirk Nowitzki. If the entire season were a game of rock-paper-scissors, the Lakers would have nothing to worry about, and Jerry Buss can sip his martini in his lair like a Bond villain. Games aren’t played on paper though.

Two regular season games and one preseason aren’t large enough a sample to draw conclusions either. The Lakers have enough talent to eventually right their ship. It may not happen in the third game, or the fourth. But there’s no way this Lakers team will finish under 50 wins this season if the starting lineup can remain healthy. The Purple and Gold fans have nothing to worry about right now.

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