As the Los Angeles Lakers were taken down by the hot Oklahoma City Thunder last night, the media has been having a field day in making this out to be the “passing of the torch.” As the Lakers gracefully step down from their elite status, the Thunder merrily say “thank you” and take over the dynasty reins.
However, when you hear what the man that just scored 40 points in the playoffs for the 13th time has to say at 2:28 and 3:14 in this post-game press conference, the supposed symbolic transition that took place in Oklahoma City via this defeat looks foolish. It is the media attempting to label the series so they can have a story to write.
This Lakers organization and team will continue to compete. Year after year (yes, even before Bryant came to town), this esteemed franchise has found ways to be a playoff team looking to win it all.
And Kobe Bryant will continue to score the basketball and play at the highest level. Highest. He just had a regular season in which he averaged 27.9 points – only Kevin Durant averaged more – and then a postseason in which he put up 30 points a night. With that type of immense scoring, how could his team be counted out so quickly? How could that team be considered a team that won’t have the ability to challenge the Thunder, who still have not won a championship?
They do need work, though, but it is doable work.
Bryant’s team needs to first find an identity they can believe in. When team’s that win a championship are broken down, every single one of them has a system implemented that every players agrees upon and therefore has each player take on a certain role to gain a high level of success.
With Phil Jackson and the Triangle Offense leaving before a shortened training camp, this team didn’t have time to understand what they were all about. They didn’t have time to adjust to their Sixth Man of the Year being shipped out to the Big D. Pau Gasol was affected the most as he never seeemed to understand what the team needed him to do, especially in crunch time of the playoffs. This can and will be figured out.
Kobe also kind of needs some help. If you told me Kobe would score 36, 38 and 42 points in three straight playoffs games and would only win one of those, I would tell you that’s as unrealistic as Isiah Thomas coaching the New York Knicks again. As Kobe scored almost half of his Lakers’ points Monday night, the Lakers also had only five bench points compared to the Thunder’s 35 bench points. Even though playoffs are all about the superstars and those players carrying their teams to the top, a reliable bench is still a key component.
With the roster as it is, there needs to be more depth and more speed on the Lakers. Once a team that had unmatchable size with two 7-footers now looks like a team with two 7-footers that can’t keep up with the speed of the NBA. Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol needs to be and will be shipped out for other pieces this offseason.
However, pieces can’t just be added haphazardly. Once a Lakers’ identity is established, then the management can take the next step by trading and drafting accordingly. (If you want an example of this, just look at the Spurs.) Then management can bring in guys that will compliment Bryant and an established system in a positive manner. It will take time and effort from everyone a part of that Lakers’ staff, but with the high expectations always on their shoulders, they are surely prepared to make the necessary changes.
So, are the Lakers finished being the Lakers? Should the Clippers be crowned as the best team in Los Angeles?
Do the Lakers have some work to do this offseason?
Yes. And they will do what they have to do in order to keep this team toward the top of the Western Conference.
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