Lack of communication.
You've heard the phrase uttered in basketball numerous times when it comes to playing sound team defense. But that can also apply to building team chemistry, which in turn establishing a team ready for a championship run.
On one hand, the team did go through a tumultuous start of the season. But given the collective talent and experience this team has, they shouldn't be having this much trouble.
After yet another frustrating road loss to the Houston Rockets where the team gave up a 10-point lead and 33 points in the final quarter, Mike D'Antoni let it be known to Laker fans and the media that he believes that the Lakers are "close" to being a "really good team" during his post-game interview.
I have to disagree.
Even if the team found a level of consistency this early, they still need to infuse Steve Nash into the dynamics of everything they want to do. That alone will take some time, and we have yet to have an official return date for the 2-time MVP. That's not even mentioning the experiment D'Antoni is still doing in his substitutional pattern.
As I've talked about before, success for the Lakers this season hinges on how D'Antoni adapts himself and his system with this team. No one knows what was talked about in his phone interview with the Lakers front office, but in some ways, there was an understanding that D'Antoni is being handed a team that doesn't even come close to resembling the team he had in Phoenix and New York.
In other words, Lakers management are expecting him to make the most of this current roster while molding this team to a quick-hitting offensive team, and in turn, a title contender rather than forcing this team to become the Phoenix Suns. Furthermore, there is also a mutual apprehension that D'Antoni is aware of where Brown failed as a head coach since I'm pretty sure Kupchak or one of the Busses covered that as well.
If D'Antoni learned anything in New York, he can't use the same dog-eared playbook with the Lakers despite having his old floor general back. Nash is not the true leader of this team. That title still belongs to Kobe Bryant. And if he wants the Lakers to start playing like the team the Buss family had envisioned, D'Antoni needs to start talking to Kobe.
That could prove difficult since he has no championship merit that the 5-time champion can begin to assimilate as championship-quality gameplan, and everyone knows that Kobe can be the most resilient player in terms of taking over the offense to win ball games if he doesn't see a more viable option for that to happen.
But one thing going in his favor is that Kobe values championships more than anything else. And if he can somehow challenge Bryant into further making a few more tweaks in his game by involving his teammates more in his quest for a 6th ring, the better chance D'Antoni can get through to everyone else.
One of the misfortunes of being under Phil Jackson for Bryant was being given the role of Michael Jordan. After 5 titles in the Triangle, it's become automatic for Bryant to take it upon himself to win games despite having a slew of options around him to help him do so.
Brown wouldn't dare interfere with that since he saw winning above teaching the team how to win like a champion — even if it means watching Kobe unnecessarily carry the team to victory by himself.
For all the good he wants to bring to this team, D'Antoni is steadily following that path.
That needs to change and in a hurry.
For one, Bryant is no longer the player he used to be. Two, the Lakers are not the team Kobe used to have.
Whether Kobe likes it or not, the Busses and Mitck Kupchak put together this team to do 2 things: 1. Win the title now, and 2. Forge a title contender for the future with Dwight Howard.
For all intents and purposes, Jerry and Jim Buss were willing to shell out close to $100 million in salary in order to keep the franchise from being relevant in the NBA, and in a way, keep the city of Los Angeles in the realm of greatness in sports.
Not to soley cater Kobe's legacy.
But for the Lakers to start heading in the right and proper direction, D'Antoni has to be the one to put on the bigger big-boy pants to admit what isn't working in his current system, and better yet, what he needs to do to turn his team into winners.
If that entails being more assertive in taking responsibility in how the team needs to play defense in situations and how he needs to mentally prepare his team each game, so be it.
What made Phil the greatest coach in NBA history is not the Triangle but his ability to communicate and instill a sense of responsibility, camaraderie and empowerment into his players so playing for one another to reach a common goal isn't questioned but expected.
Not to say that D'Antoni isn't trying to do just that. But with this team, trying isn't good enough.