Updated: December 7, 2012, 5:59 PM ET

Are The Lakers Really This Bad?

By John Hollinger
ESPN.com

Nothing has gone according to plan for the Lakers, who already are working on their third coach, their fourth starting point guard, and tonight in Oklahoma City, their seventh attempt at getting back to .500.

This game was supposed to be a showdown of two Western Conference heavyweights, and instead we find ourselves using the singular form. Steve Nash has played six quarters, Pau Gasol is resting his aching knees, and Dwight Howard hasn't looked anything like the defensive dominator he was in Orlando.

And yet, the Lakers really aren't that bad. Yes, going 9-10 against an easy schedule is disturbing, but this poor result has been driven as much by luck as skill. The Lakers are just 1-9 in games decided by 10 points or fewer, and have gone 8-1 in the others. They beat Denver by 19, Golden State by 24 and Houston by 11. They've outscored opponents by 4.1 points per game, the sixth-best figure in the league, and are in the league's top eight teams in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency -- only the Clippers and Spurs can make a similar boast.

Read the rest of Hollinger's column Insider

What The Scouts Are Saying

By Marc Stein
ESPN.com

Suspect you know the drill by now.

One lockout season couldn't have thrown you too far off track, so surely you haven't forgotten what happens at Stein Line HQ when teams start passing the 20-game threshold.

That's when the calls go out to the advance scouts to gather insights into some of the league's most pertinent topics from the guys who rack up the most air miles and hotel loyalty points in basketball -- thus winning my full admiration -- to line press row for three to four games weekly to chart every play their rivals run.

The following observations come from six scouts, three in each conference, all of whom were granted anonymity so they could speak as candidly as possible.

Read the rest of Stein's column

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