The Los Angeles Lakers lost their fourth straight game Thursday night against the New York Knicks, and many are wondering whether a new-look team expected to compete for an NBA Championship can even reach the playoffs.
It's not particularly embarrassing to lose to New York, which has the best record in the Eastern Conference in its first full season without new Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni at the helm. But the way it happened was ugly: Carmelo Anthony scored 22 points in the first quarter as his team took a 26-point lead in the first half. Although the Lakers would cut that to under 10 by the end of the game, the result was never really in doubt after the first-half explosion. Lakers blogger Drew Garrison from Silver Screen and Roll had questions about whether the team's awful funk is temporary, or a sign of a team incapable of performing well this season.
The Lakers need answers, and quickly. The 2012-2013 NBA season is beginning to slip away. Sure, all they need to do is slide into the playoffs and they have a whole new ballgame in their hands, but it's back to something many cited while watching Mike Brown coach the team. There's little to no progress.
When will there be progress?
When will the Lakers play a great game of basketball and not just ride a night of hot shooting?
Garrison pointed out many things going wrong for Los Angeles: Steve Nash is out, leaving Chris Duhon to run the point, and Pau Gasol is missing time as well. But he also pointed out that there's been no improvement since Mike Brown's firing, as the team is now 4-9 under Mike D'Antoni. Dwight Howard, considered one of the better defenders in the league, has looked disinterested on that end of the court and grabbed only seven rebounds Thursday, second to Kobe Bryant. Bryant has had to do virtually everything and, although he scored 31 points, the team is now a whopping 1-12 on nights when the four-time MVP breaks 30.
A bad stretch of play is acceptable for a good team. But Lakers fans are justified in thinking something bigger might be afoot.