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Certainly tweaks are necessary. The Lakers' transition defense needs to tighten. (It would be a good idea for Bryant to can those fruitless attempts at backcourt steals and just get back on D.) When Kobe is handling the ball, he has to make it a priority to find Nash, who's a terrific spot-up shooter. World Peace should be talked out of spending time on the blocks unless he's guarding someone down there, and a few of his post-ups could be taken by Jamison, whose off-the-bench offense has been a positive of late. In fact, Jamison may replace Clark in the starting lineup from time to time depending on matchups.
Certainly the Looming Legend, Jackson, deserves a say. "The Lakers just don't put the ball in the post," he says. "They'll use a screen-roll to get the guy in the post, but there's no consistent plan to do it. Yes, Kobe will go in there. But Dwight just doesn't get any touches. They've basically eliminated his assets."
And as far as Gasol and Howard getting in each other's way?
"We won two championships that way," says Jackson. "There shouldn't be a problem with that."
In truth, though, the Lakers' winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and '10 had more to do with Gasol and Lamar Odom playing a frontcourt tandem than it did with Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Odom, a complementary player now with the Clippers, made sure there was room for Gasol. Howard can't (or won't) do that.
So this isn't to suggest that a fix is easy. But this much is clear: Gasol has to return and be reintegrated into the offense. Does that mean a little less PT for Howard? More post-ups for the big men and fewer pick-and-rolls? More two-man game with Kobe and Gasol, which would remove some of Nash's effectiveness? It might mean all those things, because it's hard to imagine that Clark or Jamison can be more important in the long run than the 7-footer who was integral to L.A.'s last two championship teams.
The best news for the Lakers is that Bryant hasn't checked out. He appears to be looking at this quest-for-eighth-place as a challenge, not a disappointment. "It's not a question of if we make the playoffs," he says. "We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone—Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver ... whoever."
It's helpful when your main man carries around a Silver Linings Playbook. But if the Lakers don't start righting their ship immediately following the All-Star break, another movie comes to mind. Anyone remember the end of Thelma & Louise?