Sunday, May 8, 2011

What's next for the Lakers?

The Lakers displayed all the ingredients for failure at the end of the regular season when they lost five straight games, and those elements--weak bench and a lack of production from their guards, both on offense and defense--showed up in a fury Sunday in Dallas, and Los Angeles was swept out in four games by the Mavericks.
Sunday's performance by the two-time defending NBA champs was pitiful, and also embarrassing for Lakers fans, especially when Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum both got kicked out for flagrant fowls. In Game 2 at Staples Center, it was Ron Artest who got sent to the showers, and then suspended, for a violent foul. Since when did the Lakers resort to playing like thugs?
Fans and the media have blamed Pau Gasol for the Lakers troubles but the team's problems lie elsewhere.
The first place is easy to spot--the play of the guards. All season, the Lakers have gotten less than average performances out of their back court. Gone are the young legs of Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vucejec and Trevor Ariza. Ariza played mostly forward, but Derek Fisher, who seems to be at the end of the line, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown, have been average at best.


add Gasol: He is arguably the best player in the NBA, but because the Lakers are committed to starting Andrew Bynum at center, Gasol, whose natural position is in the pivot, is out of position. The team's poor guard play, especially by the aging Fisher, who can barely jump off the floor to finish lay-ups, forced Gasol to abandon playing his normal defensive position near the basket and rush up help the guards who can't stay with their defensive assignments.
Bynum showed that he is still questionable as an NBA starter at center. The Lakers made a decision during the regular season not to trade him to Denver for Carmelo Anthony, which at the time showed sound thinking. But whether he is better at center than Gasol is certainly up in the air after their demise against Dallas.


add Lakers: In the coming days, there will be a lot of analysis from every corner of the basketball world on what the Lakers must do to return to their position as the elite team in the NBA. The first step is to hire a new coach to replace Phil Jackson, who says he is not coming back next season. When that issue is settled, then the direction this team is headed will be presented in a clearer picture.

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