Los Angeles has won 12 of the last 17 games and is now just two games back of the final Western Conference playoff spot, but all still isn’t well.
Because, according to Nash, the Lakers still don’t have an identity.
Steve Nash just summed up the problem with the Los Angeles Lakers in five words: “We don’t have an identity.”
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) March 1, 2013
Undoubtedly, some would be inclined to disagree. As a Mike D’Antoni-led convocation, the Lakers’ identity should be defined by their offense. Knowing that they rank eighth in offensive efficiency suggests much of the same.
Nash, however, is right. Almost 75 percent of the way through the season, Los Angeles still doesn’t have an identity.
What do you see when you watch the Lakers? What do opposing teams see?
To be honest, plenty of things, and that’s part of the problem. Los Angeles is inconsistent. If we had to assign the Lakers an identity, it would be one that embodied inconsistency.
It’s not just that they’re 29-30 and still on the outside looking in at the playoff bubble. It’s that they have no concrete plan of attack. Varying game plans can be beneficial, but not when you run an offense like a free-for-all or defend like it’s optional.
In their most recent win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, we saw Kobe Bryant go for 33 points, but we also saw Nash and Dwight Howard combine for 21. Ideally, individual stats wouldn’t matter, so long as the Lakers were winning, but they haven’t exactly been winning all season.
Every time we’ve thought they turned a corner, there’s been a loss to remind us just how far they still need to come. Like the debacle at the Pepsi Center, where Los Angeles was torched by a younger, faster Denver Nuggets.
The main problem in attempting to define the Lakers is their standing in the league. Once again, not their record, but their place. We’re not going to genuinely know what kind of team they are until they either a) clinch a playoff berth or b) miss out on the postseason entirely.
Truth be told, even if the Lakers make the playoffs, we may not necessarily understand what kind of faction they are. Is simply snagging a playoff berth enough? Will they roll over in the first round against a San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder? Are they built for a deep postseason push in a talent-heavy Western Conference?
Bona fide contenders are able to define themselves. Pundits and fans alike are able to define them as well. The Lakers, though, cannot be defined. Not yet. And it’s less about the stats and more about how we perceive them as a team.
One day we’re convinced that they’re a super team, capable of making some noise. Others, we’re sure that they’re a docile outfit, incapable of keeping pace with the rest of the NBA’s elite.
Which interpretation is a better representation of this team? What is this aggregate made of? Who, in fact, are these Lakers?
Nash doesn’t even know, nor does the rest of the team.
All we do know is that if the Lakers wish to right the still lengthy list of wrongs they’ve created, they better hope they find out soon.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.