Why It’s Way Too Early to Give Up on the Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES — One week into the 2015-16 NBA season, no team is more desperate for a mulligan (or three) than the Los Angeles Lakers. 

They’ve been terrible, with a defense that somehow looks worse than its 28th ranking and a 16th-ranked offense that’s filled with lifeless possessions. No team is forcing fewer turnovers. No team is passing the ball less. Only two teams have scored a smaller percentage of their points in the paint. 

The Lakers don’t hustle in transition or understand their half-court rotations. “Our guys are still trying to get our terminology,” head coach Byron Scott said at a recent practice. “They’re still trying to understand our rotations. It takes time.”

Time is a thin currency right now. This season has been 144 minutes of bubbling frustration, and after three horrendous losses against a trio of flawed Western Conference teams, it’s tempting to label L.A. as the most embarrassing group in basketball; a hopeless, mismanaged and woefully constructed roster that should already cast its eyes on next July’s free agency and try to keep a top-three protected 2016 first-round pick.

But for just a moment, take a deep breath, step away from the table and calmly walk around the block. Despite inessential skill sets and seemingly unbounded weaknesses (wow, that perimeter defense), the Lakers have actual NBA talent on their roster and could very well resemble an actual NBA team before the season is over.

The short-term goal here is to avoid nightly status as a laughingstock. They first need to compete for the sake of competition; nobody mention the playoffs.

This analysis does not ignore a summer full of head-scratching decisions, but the past is the past, and the roster is the roster. These are the players Scott has to work with, and, for what it’s worth, he doesn’t think L.A.’s p...

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