Much has been made of the L.A. Lakers' 11-14 start, but one key point is that the team of superstars has hardly had the opportunity to play with each other. That's why Dwight Howard eagerly awaits point guard Steve Nash's return, the LA Times reported on Tuesday.
Nash went down in his second game as a Laker and is eyeing a return on Saturday. With Pau Gasol coming back on Tuesday following a bout with tendinitis, the Lakers are almost back to what everyone envisioned they would be.
"Everybody on this team, we work extremely hard. On the off days or in the gym, we're here after practice we're working on stuff that's going to make us better. We're committed," Howard said. "All this stuff is going to show up sooner or later. It might not show when everybody else expects it to show up but when it's the right time, everything that we put in will start coming out."
Howard says he believes Nash's return will help the Lakers on defense, where they have struggled most of the year. With Nash returning to take over the helm under his old Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni, he might bring some stability to a backcourt that has also been missing backup point guard Steve Blake.
The Lakers average more than 16 turnovers a game, good for second-worst in the NBA. Howard says that if the Lakers turn the ball over less, it leads to fewer fast-break points and gives the opportunity for the defense to settle in.
"When we turn the ball over, it puts us in a bad position to get back because we're running a play and then losing the ball, our momentum is going this way and they're going back the other way. We just really have to focus on getting a good shot every time, using the clock shot to our advantage."
Because of injuries, the Lakers haven't had much of a chance to play together as the unit that general manager Mitch Kupchak envisioned when he brought in Howard and Nash in the offseason. Howard missed the first five preseason games with injury as well.
"The more we play together, the more we grow as a team," Howard said. "We'll get more confidence in our offense and confidence in each other, to where we won't have to call any plays. That's what we're trying to build to right now; we just go out there and the offense just flows."
The Lakers are by no means out of the playoff picture with so much of the season left to go, but home-court advantage in the playoffs is a tough hill to climb. But coming this Saturday against the Golden State Warriors, barring setbacks, Howard will finally be able to see how well the Nash-led Lakers can fight the uphill battle.