The Lakers are contenders and there was never any doubt in my mind. They have started slow to say the least. This much is obvious to any basketball laymen who knows the Lakers dismal record after 25 games have been played (11-14). It's easy to be hopeless, especially as a Laker fan coming off of two years of dominance and two years of relevance. I implore you as a Laker fan to have hope and to have patience with the Lakers and our favorite punching bag, Pau Gasol. The Lakers are clear cut contenders in my eyes. As we all know, our all time great point guard Steve Nash has been out for the entire season albeit 2 games under Mike Brown's system, which was an atrocious fit for the legendary basketball genius that is Nash. Not only will his return signal the end of the Lakers offensive inconsistencies, I believe his return will increase the effectiveness of our defense. Not directly of course as Nash has been a career sub par defender, but indirectly by spreading the ball more evenly on offense and including everyone. Finding the guy who hasn't touched the rock in a while, creating easy shots for the bigs and executing pick and rolls with the best pick and roll center in the game, D12, while also opening up Kobe for open jumpers as the twin towers draw in defenses. I think we have forgotten the importance of an easy flowing offense. Not only does it increase the scoring output, leading to more wins. It makes the players function better in all aspects of the game. A player who feels dissatisfied with his touches is less likely to give 100% on defense then a player who is getting as many touches as he feels he deserves (unless his name involves Buddhism and world peace). Another aspect he will improve somwhat will be the team FT% for other players. The feeling of scoring the basketball has an effect that we forget. It boosts confidence, raises spirits and gives players a feeling of satisfaction that a rebound or an assist can't give to most players. The boost in confidence for players who will be able to score with more regularity due to Nash's return will carry over to the freethrow line, defense and hustle of the team as everyone will be involved on the side that matters most to most players.
These intangibles are not the most important effect that Nash has on the Lakers. Nash averaged 10.7 assists per game last year on the Suns. The most reliable finisher on the suns was Dwight Howard's backup from back in Orlando, Marcin Gortat. Before this season started I discussed and seriously considered the idea that Nash could perhaps break the standing record of 14.5 APG in a season set by John Stockton. Is it so out of reach for a man who could create so brilliantly for a lowly team, when now he is on, arguably, the most offensively stacked team in the NBA? Let us not forget Nash's scoring ability, his deadly long range shooting abilities, his nifty floaters and runners and his ability to outsmart most defenders and exploit weakness in the defense (leading to an easy bucket for SN or a dish to one of the many weapons the Lakers posses). The Lakers are clear cut contenders in my eyes with Nash on the floor, Nash is one of the greatest point guards of all time and it is insulting to think that the Lakers will not be contenders once he is back on the court.
In 2011, the same year that the heat made it to the finals (and LeChoke showed up) they began the season 9-8. Although the Lakers have a worse record then that the idea is the same, that both teams started off slow before going on a tear. Keep in mind that the Heat had no key players injured and less offseason changes (roster and coaching staff). In the same way that LA is being called failures now, the Heat were being called failures then, before lighting up the eastern conference.
I have seen a lot of negative talk regarding the Lakers this season. Many people claiming that the experiment has failed in LA, that the egos are to big and that the players cannot function together in a system. While the egos may be oversized in LA, the return of Nash will bring these players together on both ends of the court, I guarantee it. Give the Lakers 20 games with the greatest point guard of our generation, you will see the difference. From the win column to the stat sheets to the effort on court.