Lakers Saga Part II: Right the Ship

Minnesota Timberwolves' Ricky Rubio left, of Spain, falls to the floor after a called charge on Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Brya
Minnesota Timberwolves' Ricky Rubio left, of Spain, falls to the floor after a called charge on Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Before the second part of the Lakers saga was written, the storm had to be calmed before we could react to the first 44 games of the regular season.

The Lakers need to right the ship, they have fallen from grace and there are a few reason's why the Lakers have stumbled out of the gate.

First it was Dwight Howard's back.

Everyone in Lakerland held on to the notion that if Howard was 100 percent healthy, the Laker's fortunes would have been 100 percent different.

Then, after suffering a fracture in his leg during the second game of the season against the Portland Trailblazers, Steve Nash was unable to help the Lakers to a quick start.

At 1-4, the Lakers made the right choice and scrapped the Princeton offense, and the head coach that brought said system to Los Angeles -- former coach of the year, Mike Brown.

However, the Lakers front office was unable to make the right, logical, and obvious choice to remedy the train wreck that was the Lakers.

The Buss family, primarily Jim Buss, should have chosen his sister's (Jeanie) fiancé, 11-time champion Phil Jackson.

It was so obvious that we should not even spend too much time breaking the situation down.

But we will anyway....

Phil Jackson guarantees you two to three championships with this current roster. With Kobe, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, this would be the prototypical team for the triangle offense, Phil Jackson's meal ticket in the NBA since the early 1990s.

Jackson is a proven winner and he has shown that he is the master of managing personalities. If any coach could get the most out of Dwight Howard, it would have been the Zen Master.

With a relatively old roster, despite players such as Jodi Meeks, Jordan Hill, and Howard, the Lakers DO NOT need to be running the high paced offense which Mike D'Antoni brought to the Lakers.

However, after the Lakers have reeled off a three game winning streak against the Jazz and the reigning Western Conference champs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the New Orleans Hornets and there is new fervor and yet some cautious optimism in Lakerland.

Mostly the entire season, the Lakers have held the 10th to 12th playoff spot out west.

However, we have to remember that the top eight teams of each conference are able to vie for the Larry O'Brien trophy come April.

The Lakers are 20-25 and rank 6th in offense efficiency as well as 19th in defensive efficiency. They are also ranked 3rd in pace, at 96.8, behind Houston and Denver.

Even though the Lakers brought in Mike D'Antoni to bring "Showtime" back to Los Angeles, the Lakers need to slow down their style of play. Their high pace of play increases the chance of turnovers and giving up uncontested layups in transition since they are not able to get back and recover on defense.

This is a reason why they rank 19th in the league in defense efficiency. If the Lakers can slow it down, the way they have in their previous two game winning streak, they may have greater success in second half of the season.

The Lakers are in a period where they can make no more mistakes and literally every game is a must-win scenario.

The Jazz and Rockets hold the last two postseason slots, and Los Angeles will have to catch them in order to make it to the playoffs.

The Lakers need to continue their makeover and change of play with a slower style of basketball with Kobe retaining many of the ball handling and play making responsibilities.

Now that Rajon Rondo is out for the year, perhaps Kobe Bryant sees a possibility for him to lead the league in assists.

Kobe needs to take ownership of this team and stop trying to not step on everyone's toes. Kobe needs to be who he is: confrontational, a leader, an assassin and an alpha-male. Kobe confronted Dwight Howard in a player only meeting recently and asked Dwight if he liked playing with him or not? That is what the Lakers needed, for Kobe to stop trying to please his free agent to be center and put this team both physically and psychologically on his shoulders and take this group out of the druthers of the NBA and to NBA supremacy.

Kobe is putting the responsibility on his big men, Dwight, Pau and Earl Clark to be active and aggressive in the post, and demand the ball. If they do not seem engaged or aggressive positing for the ball, Kobe has recently thrust his bigs into the spotlight and they "had" to deliver.

The Lakers are playing at a slower pace with Kobe at the helm, which will help their big men set up in the paint and will help Nash score off the ball, which he is also extremely talented at. Remember, Nash is arguably the best shooter to ever play with averages of 49.1 percent field goal percentage, 42.8 percent three-point percentage and is the all-time leader in free throw percentage at 90.4 percent.

With Nash freed up to score more, Kobe will have, for the first time, a supremely talented offensive backcourt mate.

But this means, with Kobe running the show, D'Antoni will have to let his stars dictate the games instead of pushing them to... push the ball.

As a basketball fan, it was extremely irritating to hear Coach D'Antoni during a sideline interview in the Chicago Bulls loss earlier this season say that the reason the Lakers are struggling was because they were not playing at a fast enough pace and that they needed to speed things up in order to win the game.

With the offense running through Kobe, the Lakers dynamics will change. They will take less three point shots and will have more post ups and drive and dishes from guards to the big men.

The Lakers need to slow down their pace and they need to have Kobe continue to play make, as well as score the ball at a high clip. With Gasol and Clark playing at a higher level, Dwight needs to man up and become the center of the most luxurious franchise of all-time.

Dwight has to follow in the footsteps of Hall of Famer's George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and future Hall of Famer, Shaquille O'Neal. They have a combined 17 championships between them, and Dwight is still looking for his first.

Kobe can take over this team, but he needs Dwight to wake up and self-actualize his potential as the best center in the game.

Until Dwight shows up, consistently, the Lakers are going nowhere. But whether Dwight plays up to his billing or not, this new Kobe oriented offense should make the playoffs.

Kobe is looking for the elusive 6th title, matching Michael Jordan's title count. He is playing some of the best basketball of his career, even in his 17th season. Kobe is still a superstar and arguably the best player in the game, so if he gets to the playoffs, even as an 8th seed, anything could happen.

But remember, when the playoffs begin, everyone is 0-0.