Are the Lakers just plain tired?

Not only did the Lakers stumble to a 3-9 start in Shaquille O'Neal's absence, their lackluster effort has continued even with Shaq back in the middle.

Updated: December 20, 2002, 1:47 PM ET
By by Corey Roberts, STATS. Inc.
Many people questioned why Shaquille O'Neal decided to wait until September to undergo surgery on his ailing toe, just weeks prior to the start of training camp. As a result of the "delay" of the procedure, the Lakers' center was unable to return to the team's lineup until November 22 and missed the first 12 games of the current campaign. Not only did the Lakers stumble to a 3-9 start in his absence, but their lackluster effort also has continued even with Shaq back in the middle. Currently, Phil Jackson's 10-17 team finds itself in second-to-last place in the Pacific Division.

That's right, second-to-last.

With O'Neal on the shelf, many of his teammates were forced to step up and log more minutes than they had been used to playing in the Lakers' rotation during the past few seasons, and therein could lie a possible explanation for the team's current struggles. Thus far in 2002-03, no fewer than six Lakers have logged at least five minutes more per game than their career averages entering this season. And of those six, all but Robert Horry have seen a drop in their shooting percentages from the field, while everyone has witnessed an increase in turnovers. Could tired legs be a factor, especially when you also consider the drops at the charity stripe?

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