The New-Look Lakers

Have the Lakers (21-26) finally turned the proverbial corner?

In their last five games, the purple and gold are 4-1 behind a new style in which Kobe Bryant has taken on the role of primary ball-handler and play-maker, the team missing going 5-0 only after blowing a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter at Phoenix.

Bryant began the stretch with back-to-back games of 14 assists in home wins over Utah and Oklahoma City, and has totaled 56 helpers in the five games (11.2 per game) alongside 16.6 points on 48.4 percent shooting as well as 8.6 rebounds.

With the ball moving around to the tune of 27.0 assists per game – from a team that averaged 21.7 assists per game in the first 42 contests – the scoring has been extremely well balanced, as six of Bryant’s teammates have joined him in averaging double figure points:

- Pau Gasol: 14.8 (58 percent field goals)
- Dwight Howard: 14.5 (58.5%)
- Steve Nash: 14.4 (56.8%, 10 of 17 from three)
- Antawn Jamison: 12.6 (54.5%)
- Earl Clark: 11.2 (48.9%, 8 of 16 from three)
- Metta World Peace: 11.2 (30.3%)

The defense has improved as well. Opponents are averaging 95.6 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting, compared to 101.2 points per game in the first 42 games on 45.2 percent field goals.

The Lakers hope to get Howard back to anchor the team in Detroit, as he dominated the Pistons on Nov. 4 with 28 points on 12 of 14 field goals.

Detroit is the first of five games in seven days that will conclude the Grammy trip; afterwards, we’ll have a pretty good idea of whether the Lakers have indeed turned their season around.