Steve Nash says he'll be sidelined until at least next week. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
The Lakers are 7-8, and it really shouldn't be a surprise. Is there a general manager with a job who would trade Steve Nash and Steve Blake for Darius Morris and Chris Duhon?
Morris has played relatively well in stretches, but he's a young, second-year player who needs a lot more seasoning before he's ready to run a club. Duhon hasn't been a major contributor in this league for a number of seasons.
Nash is a two-time league MVP, and he's missed tremendously.
"Just from the standpoint from Steve's . . . three-point shooting, that alone makes it much tougher to defend us," said Kobe Bryant. "Then you add in his passing ability, his ability to facilitate where I don't have to be at the top of the floor. I can kind of be in a strike position."
Instead, the Lakers have turned to Bryant to play heavy minutes as the team's de facto point guard. He's leading the team with 4.9 assists but also 4.1 turnovers a game.
The Lakers are a poor free-throw shooting team, so much so that half of their losses this season were left at the line. With the positives of a player such as Dwight Howard, so too come the negatives.
The Lakers are going to have to play well enough every night to offset that reality at the line.
Once Nash returns, which is still that consistent "week away," the team will play a system that caters to his strengths, unlike the Princeton hybrid offense of former coach Mike Brown. When Nash gets back into true game shape, the Lakers will be reinvigorated.
Missing Nash is why the Lakers have struggled.
The team's record isn't nearly as strong under Coach Mike D'Antoni as it was with Bernie Bickerstaff serving as interim coach, but the team had a much easier schedule under Bickerstaff. This isn't about D'Antoni.
Of the four wins in five tries, two were against depleted clubs (the Golden State Warriors without Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush, the Sacramento Kings without DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson, etc.). Beating the Brooklyn Nets was impressive but that stretch was fool's gold.
For the Lakers to have any true sustained success, they need Nash. It's that simple.
Until then, they're going to have moments of greatness mixed in with some seriously painful basketball, like the kind displayed in the loss to the Pacers.
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You can email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.