The NBA All-Star Break has arrived, but for the Los Angeles Lakers, it might as well be in their rear-view mirror.
Phil Jackson’s team became the last in the Association to enter double digits in the losses column against the Utah Jazz, 113-109.
The defeat sapped away any momentum the Purple and Gold had coming into the weekend in Phoenix.
As the likes of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol head into Arizona’s capital to represent the Western Conference, some questions need to be answered.
Can Luke Walton increase his production as a starter?
The forward accompanying Lamar Odom was a non-factor against Utah, with only two points and two rebounds. Walton must step up to help the Lakers in their push for the postseason.
Will Andrew Bynum get healthy in time before the playoffs?
His knee injury has given Pau Gasol a bigger role in the triangle offense, but if Bynum can recover from his injury, the Lakers will have new wind in their sales.
Can the Lakers get back to playing consistent defense after their loss against the Jazz?
Through a 58.6 percent field goal percentage, Utah was able to knock down key shots, and were 35.3 percent from the perimeter.
The Lakers have gotten sliced and diced on defense when they dropped 10 of their 52 games this season, and need to clamp down.
Can the Lakers bench deliver?
Against Utah, Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza and Josh Powell scored 28 points as a whole.
If the bench can continue to step up and make key shots, it will take a lot of slack off Kobe Bryant, Gasol, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher, all of whom have been brilliant for LA.
Will this be the year Jackson passes Red Auerbach for most NBA Championships as a head coach?
It is a long way away, but a refocused and re-energized Lakers team could get the Zen Master over the hump.
With one of the strongest records in the National Basketball Association, only time will tell what answers the Lakers will give us when All-Star Weekend 2009 rides off into the sunset.
Much thanks to Jo-Ryan Salazar for writing this fantastic article! Check out more of his articles at Bleacher Report.