The Future is Bleak for the Lakers

Posted: May 22, 2012 in Okafor's Corner
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Basketball is a team game. Five players working in concert is paramount to winning at the highest level. Kobe Bryant blatantly disregarded that simple, well-known since-the-grade-school concept last night when the young and spry Oklahoma City Thunder unceremoniously knocked the slow-footed, ground-bound Los Angeles Lakers out of the playoffs.

Bryant was far from the main culprit for the loss last night. Terrible pick and roll defense, an ineffective bench, and very little production from the point guard position (1-7 FG, 8 points) were the main reasons for the loss but Bryant’s attempt at being a one-man show certainly didn’t help. To beat a team that is better than you (yes, OKC was definitely the better, talented team) requires every player on your team to be engaged and playing at their highest level.

Bryant wasn’t interested in incorporating his teammates (ZERO assists). From the start of the game, he was only concerned about himself. Rather than think “What can WE do get this win?,” his mindset resembled more like “What can I do to pull out this victory?”.

That same attitude contributed to the Lakers’ downfall in Game 2 and undeniably cost the Lakers game 5. Down the stretch in game 2, Kobe was held scoreless, took several questionable shots, and committed several critical turnovers. In the fourth quarter of game 5, Kobe missed eight out of 10 shots while Bynum, who played extremely well in the first half, was only afforded four shots in the second half.

Lambaste Pau Gasol all you want to for his passive, inexcusable mistake in the final minute in which he opted to turn down a wide-open 10-15 foot jump shot and make a cross-court pass that was picked off by Kevin Durant. But be aware that the blame for the Lakers losing the double-digit lead in the fourth quarter rests almost entirely on Bryant’s shoulders and his poor shot selection.

Arguably, the Lakers could be up 3-2 right now but instead, the offseason has come for them. This team was flawed and probably never had a legitimate chance to compete for the title. Their bench production was one of the worst in the league, outside shooting was a constant issue, and the lack of a playmaker besides Bryant wasn’t sufficiently addressed.

To compete for a championship in the future, the Lakers will try to ship out Gasol for several players and/or might try to trade Bynum for Dwight Howard, but the first step should be Bryant realizing that he no longer is good enough to be the best player on a championship team. He isn’t the same player that he was when the purple and gold defeated the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals. His skills have diminished and will continue to do so.

Unfortunately, Bryant’s salary will be going in the opposite direction. The Lakers are scheduled to pay roughly $28 and $30 million to Bryant in the next two years. Good luck putting together a championship team when you owe that much money to a declining player who is no longer a top-5 player and whose salary accounts for close to half of the salary cap.

  1. Chris Ross says:

    Really nice post here. It’s definitely worth asking if this is it for this era of the Lakers. It’s hard to believe with Pau and Kobe not getting any younger that these guys can continue to compete in the ever strong west for an NBA championship. Bynum is going to have to take a huge role more consistently, especially near the end of games but that’s definitely a big if for the franchise considering his comments yesterday. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this Laker team works itself out in the off-season and if they really change up their roster. Also, you think you could take a gander over at my blog post because I would absolutely love to hear what you have to say

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