Lake Show on Summer Hiatus
In the latest installment of 'As the Lakers Turn,' the two time defending champions were swept out of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks. Not exactly the Hollywood ending some would have predicted for Phil Jackson. By this time next week, the Zen Master will be on his ranch in Montana tending to his horses or mending a fence. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and the Lakers will be the last thing on his mind. In a lot of ways an unceremonious second round loss fits Phil Jackson more than the pomp and circumstance of a championship parade. Phil did it his way, and the NBA will be a less interesting league without him in it.
Before I put on my pop psychologist cap and analyze what went wrong with the Lakers, I need to give the Mavericks a healthy dose of praise. Dirk Nowitzki played at an MVP level, the bench was outstanding, and Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood did a great job on Gasol and Bynum. Dallas is only half way home to their first NBA title, but they looked like a championship team against Los Angeles.
Unlike Los Angeles, Dallas played like they like and trust each other. There will be all kinds of theories and rumors surfacing in the next few days as to why the Lakers lacked any unity or urgency in the playoffs. The red flags surfaced late in the regular season, and after a game one loss to New Orleans there was trouble in paradise. Despite a Herculean effort from Chris Paul, Los Angeles simply outclassed New Orleans.
Laker fans were holding out hope their team would flip that proverbial switch against Dallas and return to championship form. Other than a few flashes from Kobe and Bynum, the Lakers never put together four solid quarters against the Mavericks. After game two, Andrew Bynum publicly delcared the Lakers had real trust issues. Bynum wouldn't elaborate, but Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant have had to deny rumors they aren't speaking to each other.
As anyone who follows the NBA knows, nothing ruins team unity faster than women. There is a rumor floating around that Kobe's wife was instrumental breaking off Pau's engagement to actress Silvia Lopez. Is this a pro basketball team or The Beatles? Who knows how much truth there is to the rumors, but it was evident something was bothering Pau. He played soft, careless, and uninspired. He didn't look like the Pau Gasol who was instrumental in LA's back to back championships.
The big question is what's next for the Lakers? The knee jerk crowd will demand Mitch Kupchak blow up the team. I think the core of Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum can still compete for championships but they need to upgrade at some spots. To compete with the Memphis's, OKC's, and Portland's in the coming years, the Lakers will need to become faster and more athletic.
Unfortunately, the lasting legacy of the 2010 Los Angeles Lakers will be they way the devolved in their final game of the year. The Lakers hardly handled a 122-86 defeat with class. I understand that frustration sets in but Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum deserve stiff fines and carryover suspensions for their actions. Bynum could have seriously injured J.J. Barea, and there is no place for that kind of deportment and lack of sportsmanship.