Lakers point guard Steve Nash high-fives teammate Steve Blake as he enters… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images…)
The Lakers are winless with just two games left in the preseason. While the team has not played particularly well, the Lakers certainly looked better with Dwight Howard in the lineup.
The difficulty is incorporating Howard while the team continues to learn Coach Mike Brown's offense, a hybrid of the Princeton offense and the schemes the Lakers ran last season.
As the only team in the league without a preseason win, where exactly are the Lakers on the learning curve?
"We're a little ahead of where I thought we'd be offensively. Defensively we're about where we should be," said Brown. "We could be a little bit better in longer stretches. I'm okay with where we are overall. Obviously there are things we can get better at but I kind of like where we are."
Howard's timing was off but in his first game since April, he scored 19 points, pulled down 12 boards and blocked four shots.
Bryant wasn't surprised at how well the Lakers played in stretches, despite the record.
"Honestly playing with each other is very easy," said Bryant. "I think it's really just getting the nuances of the offense down and just some of the timings on the back doors and things like that which is part of the rhythm of the offense. In terms of playing together, it's easy."
The Lakers are spending split-seconds thinking instead of playing instinctually. In the NBA, that can be enough to throw offensive timing off completely.
"Eventually there won't be a lot of thinking, you'll just react because you know it so well," said reserve guard Steve Blake. "This part of the year, there's still some thinking going on. That's why we need practices and to keep working on it. Once we have it down, it will be much more affective."
Blake played for Assistant Coach Eddie Jordan, who ran the Princeton offense in Washington with the Wizards.
"It takes time," said Blake. "There's still a lot more for us to even put in. We still have to perfect the stuff we do have in, so we're not right where we want to be."
Bryant believes the team is further along than he expected.
"It's coming. I think we're ahead of the curve in terms how we executed," said Bryant after Sunday's loss to the Kings. "We're doing a pretty, darn good job."
Nash has a different take on the team's progress.
"We're all over-thinking, under-thinking," said the veteran point guard. "There are a million things we need to work through before we feel confident."
Instead of hoping the team just clicks, Nash looks forward to the journey that could take the Lakers all the way into June.
"I want the learning curve to last the whole season," said Nash. "I hope this is a team that improves all the way through the playoffs. We're always learning. We're always finding new ways to exploit our talents."
The Lakers would like their first preseason victory on Wednesday night against the Clippers but the true goal is to have the team in a position to win come May and June, not October.
"We're going to start reading each other a little better but right now we're still in the early process of that," said Nash. "Once we really get it going, things are going to be tough for teams to guard."
If the Lakers can bottle their best moments against the Kings, they should be among the top competitors this season. The difficulty has been sustaining that success for a full 48 minutes.
The window closes in just over a week when the regular season starts on October 30. The Lakers have two more chances to put it together before then.
Lakers well-represented in general managers survey
Dwight Howard has big effect on Lakers stats
Lakers waive Chris Douglas-Roberts, Greg Somogyi