Kobe Bryant is averaging 30.1 points per game, but with Dwight Howard now… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Should Jim Buss, the Lakers' executive vice president of basketball operations, panic at the team's 15-20 start?
Given his vow Thursday not to panic, is he right that the injuries are the primary reason the Lakers have had such a dismal start to the season?
"I don't know if we've had five games where all our players are playing," Jim Buss said. "When you have injuries like that, you can't play enough games together to get chemistry."
He's certainly not wrong regarding injuries. The Lakers missed Steve Nash for several weeks with a leg injury. Dwight Howard is out with a shoulder injury but has spent much of the year recovering from back surgery. Pau Gasol currently has a concussion but sat for a stretch with knee tendinitis. Steve Blake hasn't been available with an abdominal injury. Jordan Hill is now down with a hip problem.
If the Lakers were healthy all year, they'd be better than 15-20 in early January. That's a given.
Additionally, this isn't the first time the Lakers have lost 15 of their first 35. After three straight titles, the 2002-03 Lakers recovered from an identical start to win 50 games on the year and make the playoffs as the fifth-seeded team.
Buss might be confident in his roster but this team does not look like a group on the verge of a 35-12 finish. Even if all the injured players suddenly return to full strength, the Lakers inherently look older, slower and defenseless.
The group can score but if defense wins championships, where does that leave the Lakers?
It's still not clear if Howard and Gasol can share a frontcourt, or that Coach Mike D'Antoni can adjust his offense to suit two low-post players.
In a show of support, Jim Buss praised both D'Antoni and Gasol. If he spoke the truth, there's no reason to expect the Lakers to make a coaching change or a major trade.
It is, however, worth noting that Jim Buss told ESPNLosAngeles on Nov. 8, "I have no problems with Mike Brown at all. ... He just works too hard and he's too knowledgeable for this to be happening."
The Lakers started 1-4 and Jim Buss said, "I'm fine with what's going on. It's a learning process for the players. As long as everybody is on the same page, I think we're fine."
The next morning, Brown was fired as coach.
Either Jim Buss had a mighty change of heart, wasn't straight-forward with his comments or wasn't the one in power making the decision. The younger Buss has been gradually given more control of the team but owner Jerry Buss still has the final word.
After such a quick turnaround with Brown, Jim Buss might have confidence that this Lakers squad can recover but his word shouldn't be taken as a guarantee.
The Lakers might stand pat. They might even succeed as Buss envisions, but the path ahead is unclear for a team that has woefully underperformed this season.