Like everything else about the most peculiar Lakers season in recent memory, nothing about Thursday night was really as it seemed. Yet by the end of a long and frustrating 125-101 loss to the Clippers, a clear picture of the Lakers emerged - even as we viewed it through a distorted lens. The Lakers probably aren't 24 points worse than their crosshall rivals, but even on their best night they likely aren't much closer either. And while they might not be as bad as their 25-29 record suggests at the All-Star break, it would be a gigantic stretch to think they are significantly better. Dwight Howard can't possibly be as ordinary as he's looked through the first half of the season, but he may never be the dominant center everyone assumed when the Lakers traded for last summer. The playmaker Kobe Bryant evolved into over the last few weeks might make for a good story this late in his career, but considering that's never been who is is, we'd be foolish to think it will continue. You want a good laugh? Tell LeBron James that Kobe is turning a new leaf. Or Chris Paul, for that matter. Bryant might be fooling the rest of us with his recent metamorphosis, but the two best players in the game aren't buying it. It's just another odd development in the strangest Lakers season in years. Mike D'Antoni prefers an up-tempo, running offense, but the Lakers are capable of doing neither.