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Lakers offer incomplete picture through 10 games

January 10, 2012 | 10:38 am

The Lakers' 6-4 start marks their worst 10-game beginning since they opened the 2005-06 season with Smush Parker at point guard and went 4-6. There are plenty of positive and negative developments as well as a slew of uncertainties that make it hard to see what happens next. 

The Good

1. Work Ethic — This team's identity immediately flipped into a grind-it-out team partly because of Mike Brown's coaching style and partly because of the uncertain transition period. The Lakers have high expectations and the execution has been far from pretty. But it's nice for a change to see the Lakers actually trying in every single game.

2. Kobe Bryant's shooting — It's beyond comprehension how Bryant's been able to adjust his shot and go 49% in the past four games despite the torn ligament in his right wrist still ailing him. But he somehow does it.

3. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol — Bynum stormed out the gate strong and showed more offensive aggression. Meanwhile, Gasol has adjusted nicely by becoming a facilitator and maintaining a consistent midrange jump shot.

4.Half-court defense — Expect plenty of free-taco nights. The Lakers have allowed only 90.7 points per game, fifth best in the league.

5. Josh McRoberts — He doesn't exactly replace Lamar Odom, but his hustle and ability to hit his shots   has proved infectious when he's in the lineup. 

The Bad

1. Turnovers — This is the team's most glaring weakness and one Brown didn't think would remain such a persistent issue. But it is. The Lakers average 16.7 turnovers, third most in the NBA, and they've shown no signs of improvement. 

2. Poor transition defense — This isn't a surprise at all. The Lakers are an old team that lacks quickness. One way to mitigate this, of course, involves limiting turnovers. 

3. Inconsistent bench — There are some positive developments, such as McRoberts' energy and Steve Blake's improved shooting, but the unit lacks a consistent presence. You'll never know whether Metta World Peace will post up and score or fire outside shots that become airballs. Troy Murphy provides a decent scoring option but lacks speed on defense. The shuffling between Jason Kapono and Andrew Goudelock has hardly brought clarity to the reserve shooting-guard spot. 

4. Horrific three-point shooting — They've gone 24.1% from the field, which ranks second to last in the league. That number would even be lower if not for Blake's 34.1% clip. In seasons past, the Lakers saw three-point shooting as a luxury. But with Bryant's injury and Bynum's double-teams, the Lakers have to improve in this area. 

5. Fisher — As someone who's always appreciated his intangibles and work ethic, it's glaringly noticeable that his poor conditioning and shooting (35.3%) has so far outweighed his positive qualities. His hustle for a loose ball that set the tone in the Lakers' 92-89 New Year's Eve victory over Denver marks the lone exception. 

The Uncertainties

1. Bryant's playing strongly now, but is it sustainable for him to shoot a league-high 23 a game? This has nothing to do with shot attempts but more with usage rate.

2. Will Bynum learn how to fight through double teams? If so, how long will this learning curve take?

3. Matt Barnes has provided solid energy at small forward the past two games, but will that become the norm?

4. The Lakers appreciate Brown's dogged work ethic and meticulous preparation, but it remains unclear whether this will help the Lakers develop or simply burn them out. 

5. McRoberts' absence Tuesday night against Phoenix marks the fifth consecutive game he's missed because of a sprained left big toe. McRoberts hopes to return by the end of the week, but is that just wishful thinking?


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Five ways to decrease the Lakers' turnovers

Kwame Brown inspired more than just Andrew Bynum

— Mark Medina

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