It is officially time for the Los Angeles Lakers to panic. The NBA season is nearly at the halfway mark and the Lakers are four-games under .500.
They have only been above .500 for one day this season and that was all the way back on November 20th.
I usually don't say it's time to panic before the All-Star break, but it is clear there is a lot wrong with the Lakers this season, and this is with Kobe Bryant playing his best basketball since 09'. He is shooting a career best 48% from the field and he's leading the NBA in scoring. The "Black Mamba" is averaging 30.5 PPG, he hasn't averaged over 30 PPG since he was playing with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown.
Everyone thought Mike Brown was the problem, but it clearly was a lot more than Brown. It's not on Mike D'Antoni either. You can't blame a coach that had no training camp or preseason to fix a team in a matter of weeks. There was only one coach who could have fixed this problem immediately, Phil Jackson.
It is obvious the Lakers and their fans wanted Phil Jackson, but there was one guy who didn't: Lakers Executive VP Jim Buss.
Jim Buss and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak decided to hire Mike D'Antoni instead of Phil Jackson, and I strongly believe Kupchak wanted Jackson and Buss wanted D'Antoni. Jim Buss is the son of the owner, Jerry Buss, and of course he is going to have the last word.
Phil Jackson has won 11 NBA Championships, Mike D'Antoni is 26-29 as a head coach in the playoffs.
The Lakers still have 48 games left this season, but they need to get on track, quickly.
They are the third-highest scoring team in the NBA averaging 103.1 points/game, but the major problem has been on the other side of the floor. The Lakers defensive woes have been horrific this season allowing 101.5 points/game, fifth worst in the NBA. Their loss to the Rockets was their fourth in a row and the Rockets lit up the scoreboard dropping 125 on Los Angeles.
Just when you didn't think anything could get worse in La La land, Dwight Howard is out indefinitely with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Pau Gasol is out indefinitely with a concussion while Jordan Hill is out for at least a week with a hip injury.
On Thursay, the Lakers travel to San Antonio (27-10) for the second day of a back-to-back then come back to L.A. to host the OKC Thunder (26-8). Los Angeles has 20 games left before the All-Star break and 13 are against teams that are .500 or better. The Lakers are 5-11 on the road this year, fifth worst in the West, and they still have 11 more road games before the All-Star break.
This is going to be a crucial stretch for Los Angeles. The 1994-95 Houston Rockets are the last team to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals while finishing outside of the top-four in the Western Conference playoff seedings.
Anytime you have Kobe Bryant on your team you have a chance to compete. It will be crucial for the other guys to step up. Antawn Jamison has been riding the bench the last month of the season and he will get a second chance to prove he can still ball. The last pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, Robert Sacre (Gonzaga), will get his opportunity to show he belongs in the NBA, and not just to cheer on the bench.
The Lakers are so slim inside now they might lean on Metta World Peace to play some center while Howard, Gasol and Hill are on the sideline.
Maybe the Lakers give Kenyon Martin a call. They need another big man, and more importantly, need to improve defensively. K-Mart is just the type of player they need. The Lakers defense has been horrific, and Martin could come in and help fill that void. They need some more toughness and adding him to play with Howard inside could be just the answer. Just ask the Lakers neighbors how important Kenyon Martin was to their success last year. The Clippers would have never upset the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs without K-Mart.
The Lakers are hitting the panic button, but they still have time to fix their woes. It will be a crucial five weeks before the All-Star break because the Western Conference is filled with a ton of talented teams. The magic number for the Western Conference has been 46-wins since the 2007-08 season. (Of course, not counting last season's lockout shortened season.) No team in the West has made the playoffs winning less than 46 games since the 2006-07 Golden State Warriors. The Lakers would have to go 31-17 over their final 48 games to hit the 46-win plateau. Just imagine what their record would have to be to make it near the top-four of the playoff seeding.
People that say the Lakers need to just get in the playoffs to make a run are asking for a lot. The Lakers do not want to face the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers or San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
If the Lakers want to have success in the 2013 NBA playoffs, it will be a must for them to get to the No. 5 seed in the West. The Lakers are sitting at 15-18, seven-games behind the fifth-seeded Golden State Warriors. Los Angeles needs to withstand the next couple weeks without their big men, which is going to be an extremely tough task. But, anytime you have #24 on your squad, you can beat anyone on any given night.