The Lakers were swept by the Mavs in a series where most people thought the Lakers were the clear favorites. After watching the Lakers sort of struggle in the first round with the New Orleans Hornets, I thought the Lakers would have a hard time with Dallas but win in 7 games. After watching the Lakers closely this season, I saw holes in the team that could be exploited by the right team. The NBA is all about matchups and a mismatch could cause a team a playoff series.
One of the holes which should have been clear to anyone who knows basketball is the inability of the Lakers to stop dribble penetration. We can start out with Derek Fisher who has lost the ability to defend his position. He was a liability the whole season and during both rounds of the playoffs. It’s time for him to hang it up. Ron Artest during his career has been one of the best defensive players in basketball, but it’s obvious he has lost a step. Teams have been attacking Fisher and Artest off the bounce all season, causing breakdowns in the Lakers defense which have led to open 3-point shots, layups, or foul trouble for the Lakers “bigs”.
Next up is Pau Gasol, who was a complete no-show this year in the playoffs. After averaging 20 ppg, 11 rpg, and 2 bpg during the Lakers run to their 2nd straight NBA title in the 09-10 playoffs, he laid a turd this year, putting up averages of 13 ppg and 8 rpg while shooting 42% from the field. Numbers like this from a player of his caliber are flat out unacceptable. Yes we all know Kobe is going to get his, but the Lakers won two in a row and played in the 3 prior NBA Finals because of the addition of Gasol. The Lakers had no legit 2nd scoring option and they could have gone to Andrew Bynum more, but they chose not to.
Finally, I hate to ask this question, but Is Kobe Bryant slowing down a tad bit or did he just lose his trust in his teammates? Yes, we all know that he isn’t the athlete that he was in the early 2000’s, and he has reformed his game as Michael Jordan did when he lost his ability to drive and jump over everyone ,by resorting to posting up and using his mid-range game to score. There were plenty of situations in the series against the Mavs that Kobe blatantly looked off open teammates to take tough shots contested by two or more defenders. It also didn’t help that the Lakers bench, besides Lamar Odom, was a non-factor throughout the playoffs.
In my eyes, there are a few things the Lakers could do to fix this team and be right back in the Finals:
1. Trade for Dwight Howard. The Orlando Magic are worried that they will lose Howard after the 2011-12 season (if there is one) for nothing to free agency. The Lakers have what no other NBA team has, a legit, talented young center in Andrew Bynum, who’s 25 years old and has yet to reach his full potential. Howard would give the Lakers a legit superstar center that would take the pressure off of Kobe and is the best defensive player in the NBA.
2. They must find replacements for Derek Fisher and Ron Artest. Fisher has been a nice pro and the perfect role player on some championship teams, but it’s time for him to retire. He can’t keep anyone in front of him anymore and he never was a playmaker at the point. Ron Artest’s better days have passed him and the little bit of athletic ability that he had and used to help him be one of the league’s most versatile and best defenders is gone. It might be hard to move Artest and his remaining 3 years on his deal at $7 Million per, and if you do find his replacement, I can’t see Artest coming off the bench. He’s going to be tough to replace.
3. Retool the bench. Lamar Odom was the NBA’s “Sixth Man of the Year”, but besides him and maybe Shannon Brown from here to there, who else made an impact off the bench? Steve Blake and Matt Barnes were brought in to be glue guys and provide spark off the bench, but they were ineffective when it counted. The Lakers could also use a backup center off the bench to rebound, defend, and block a few shots.
4. Finally, with Phil Jackson’s great career coming to an end, the Lakers are going to need a new coach, one with some creditability, past success, and a no-nonsense attitude. Coming in to coach a veteran team who has had success and won titles before you have gotten there is a tough job. Establishing respect, foundation, and your own system is key to winning the team over and being successful. Kobe Bryant has openly endorsed Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw as the next Lakers head coach.
I know getting swept is a bad thing and it looked real bad. Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom taking cheap shots in the fourth quarter down by almost 30 points made the loss even worse. But if the Lakers’ front office doesn’t remain complacent and make the right moves, the Lakers can and will be back in the fold as a title contender.
Tags: All's Fair in Sports and War, Andrew Bynum, Brandon Pemberton, Dallas Mavericks, Derrick Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers, Matt Barnes, NBA, Pau Gasol, Phil Jackson, Ron Artest, Shannon Brown, Steve Blake, The War Room, War Room Sports