Among Jazz fans, the Lakers are the least-liked team in the NBA. These are good days for Jazz fans.
As was evident Sunday night, in a seven-point Jazz win in L.A., the Lakers are dragging right now, especially against expectations that they would be one of the top teams in the league. They are far from it. That’s been true for most of the season, but when you watch them closely, it kicks you straight in the head.
The Lakers are beyond disappointing. They blew past that off-ramp long ago. They’re … average. Their 9-12 record is south of that. And the return on dollars invested is subterranean. Those who think all of that’s going to be fixed when a couple of injuries heal up, specifically, when Steve Nash returns, shouldn’t be so sure. The problems in L.A. run deeper than just that.
A whole lot of it stems from ineffective defense, and Nash, a truly great point guard, never was anybody’s idea of a stopper. Edging toward 40, he’s a sizable defensive liability. From that standpoint, Nash will fit in nicely.
The Lakers currently rank 18th in average points allowed, at 98.7, and that’s with Dwight Howard roaming the middle. Last night, the slow-footed Lakers defense allowed the Jazz to score 117. It allowed Utah, which has won all of four road games this season, to shoot better than 54 percent on the Lakers’ home floor in front of their home crowd. What have the Jazz shot in other games away from EnergySolutions?
They hit 41 percent at Oklahoma City, 40 percent at Sacramento, 38 percent at Washington, 44 percent against Philly, 40 percent at Boston, 37 percent at Denver … and, well, you get the idea. There have been times when the Jazz have done better, but only on rare occasions. Sunday night was one of them.
L.A. still seems to be struggling to find a consistent role for Howard, who in 42 minutes against the Jazz got 11 points. Enes Kanter in 18 minutes got 14. Howard’s scoring average this season is equal to his career average, at 18.4 points, but he looked lost on Sunday night.
Much attention, and blame, has been focused on Pau Gasol, who missed the game against the Jazz because of a tender knee. Gasol, who has averaged 18.5 points over his career, this time around is getting 12.6. Trade rumors have swirled, call-outs have been issued, but if the Lakers can’t figure a way to get more out of the 32-year-old power forward, the aforementioned expectations have no shot of being fulfilled.
Another problem for the Lakers: They are thin. Their bench is weak. They got a terrific contribution from Jordan Hill, who scored 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting, Sunday night. But, on the whole, the stars for the Lakers will have to be exactly that for them to bounce back.
Which brings us to the one bright spot for the Lakers. No big surprise. Kobe Bryant is playing some of his best basketball, leading the NBA in scoring (28.6 points), making 48.2 percent of his attempts. He hung 34 points on the Jazz, but dusted only 9 of 24 attempts.
Just like on Sunday night, and too many times thus far this season, it was nowhere near enough for the Lakers to win.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM/97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.