How close are the Los Angeles Lakers to a breakthrough?
The Lakers now have their four stars on the floor together for the first time since October. Let's say they hold their home court against the Knicks on Tuesday. And letís say Dwight Howard continues to build strength, as does the defense, and the offense, already ranked fifth in efficiency, starts operating as the lethal machine it was designed to be, and the wins start to pile up.
Thatís an entirely conceivable chain of events, but itís no lock, either. The Lakers still feature a core of players who like to work with the basketball operating in a system that prefers they pass or shoot instantly. Success will require some compromise, but any offensive philosophical differences will likely resolve themselves -- thereís too much talent. The Lakersí prospects hinge primarily on a willingness to play defense. Howard didnít have any perimeter stoppers in front of him in Orlando, but anchored a top defensive unit. The Lakers can play that brand of defense if Howard is up to the task, the other starters and the coaching staff apply their wits, and the second unit makes guarding opponents its mission.
If those scenarios shake out and the Lakers are playing some of the best basketball in the league headed into the All-Star break, does the early-season turmoil get summarily dismissed as old news?