PodKast: On the tough schedule ahead, Pau's crabbiness, and Bynum's return

Since their 8-0 start, the Lakers have undoubtedly been sluggish. Like a wet sponge. 9-7 over 16 games, including only one win over a team with a winning record (their only such victory of the season, for those keeping score). Overall, their schedule has been the NBA's easiest.

These are uneasy times, made no more comfortable by Sunday's win over the Nets in New Jersey (on the heels of Friday's loss in Chicago on the heels of the thinnest of victories Wednesday over the Clippers). Will we add to the tension, focusing on darkening skies, or add some of those cushy Dr. Scholl's gel inserts to the collective shoes of Lakers fans, making the march through tough times more tolerable? Find out in the newest incarnation of the Land O'Lakers PodKast wherein...

  • We wade into the mediocrity that has been the last month, starting with Pau Gasol, who spent most of yesterday's game wondering when exactly the Nets would be required by the officials to stop hitting him in the face. Didn't really happen, something Phil Jackson pointed out after the game. Of course, he also pointed out how Gasol needs to play through the contact, anyway. As did Kobe Bryant, using language lower in charity, higher in salt.

  • The reasons behind the lull in Gasol's performance- particularly notable now that I've acquired him for my fantasy team- aren't exactly hard to diagnose. He needs a wingman, and fortunately one is returning Tuesday in Andrew Bynum. Andy and I discuss what gets fixed and what doesn't with 17 back in the lineup. The list of positives is pretty long: rebounding, shot blocking, paint presence, and the generation of "easy" points on the other end, but the Lakers need to make sure they don't view Bynum as a cure all.

  • Before the start of the season, that the Lakers would enter the playoffs with the best record in the Western Conference was seen, more or less, as a foregone conclusion. Now, with L.A. looking up at the Mavs and Spurs and facing a schedule growing much, much harder over the next few months (still to come, full slates against: Dallas, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Boston, Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, New York, and multiple games with Utah and Denver) are the Lakers still the favorite for the W.C.'s top spot? If they don't get there, what changes this postseason?

All that, plus your questions via Twitter. Are Bynum's injuries fluky? With Ron Artest struggling, will Jackson play Bynum, Gasol, and Lamar Odom together? How's Theo Ratliff doing?

And we reveal the meaning of life, though it's a little complicated.