Home > Uncategorized > Another “Now What?” Post Concerning the Los Angeles Lakers

Another “Now What?” Post Concerning the Los Angeles Lakers

How to describe the 2010-11 Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals:

Slow, lazy, errant, stubborn, indifferent, weary, unmotivated, embarrassing, defenseless, reckless, thuggish, quitters.

But, as hard it was to remember after their 36-point season-shutting loss, the Lakers entered Sunday as the two-time defending NBA champions. And they can be so again. Kobe Bryant thinks so. And I’ll agree.

In Boston, Ray Allen will be 36 years old, Kevin Garnett will be 35 and Paul Pierce will be 34 next season. In San Antonio, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are both in their mid-30s. Tony Parker is turning 29 in a couple of weeks, but he’ll be entering his 11th season. The rebuilding process in those cities probably need to be green-lighted now.

The Lakers should get another couple of years of quality basketball out of their current group’s core — Pau Gasol is 30; Andrew Bynum is 23; Kobe Bryant is still performing at a Hall-of-Fame level; Lamar Odom is coming off the best season of his career.

However, that doesn’t mean the prospect for vast changes should be ignored. The Lakers need to address their team in a handful of obvious areas: youth, athleticism and point-guard play.

This facelift starts with who else but Brian Shaw.

Yes, no matter how much the Lakers’ suits want to run the media around in circles about some exhaustive coaching search, Phil Jackson’s successor has been and will be the man who sat directly next to him on the L.A. bench for the past six years. Shaw has been groomed for this role. And maybe most importantly, he is respected by Kobe.

Reshaping the Lakers’ roster will take some trades or eaten contracts considering how many players they have under contract. Their only true free agents this offseason are Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff — both of whom will be gone. Matt Barnes and Shannon Brown have player options available to them for the 2011-12 season. But I can only hope, for some reason that I can’t comprehend, that they choose to not use those options.

Barnes was supposed to be a defensive spark plug off the bench. He was supposed to bring attitude, grittiness, some other clichéd non-tangible stuff along with solid defensive play and a few 3-pointers here and there. Yet, his season was marred by an injury that forced him to miss one-third of the schedule and he ended up as a non-factor, a geriatric 31-year-old.

Shannon Brown just drives me crazy. Yes, he makes for some great highlights. He’s the type of player who makes you ask your TV: “How did he do that?” Then you ask after the next time down the floor: “Why did he do that??” Most of that reaction is because Brown is simply greedy. He is incapable of passing and finds himself acting too much like the player who wears his No. 12 times two. Every time he touches the ball, he feels the need to score with it. He repeatedly wastes possessions because he thinks he’s more important to the offense than what is reality.

Also, to where did his once-improved shot wander off? During the preseason, it was so obvious that Brown had worked tirelessly on his 3-point shooting, which was a real problem for him in 2009-10. Over the first month of the season, it looked fantastic as he made 29 of his first 57 shots from beyond the arc.

And then — poof! After Nov. 23, Brown went 52-for-180 over the rest of the season, including the playoffs.

Unfortunately for my sake, Brown is athletic and just 26 years old. Even if he declines his option, those two factors make him a prime candidate to stay.

Every other Laker is under contract. But players still need to be moved and roles still need to change. Luke Walton and his stupid tattoo have to go elsewhere. He is basically worthless right now. Derek Fisher, who I thought would retire after this season, is under contract through the 2012-13 season. But he needs to be taken out of the starting five. That playing time should go to Steve Blake.

Wow, that line almost makes me miss Jordan Farmar.

That’s where I think the Lakers will be judged in this offseason: How much do they upgrade at point guard? All of this talk about trading for Dwight Howard, dealing Bynum, looking for the new Shaq, is misguided right now. This team has tremendous size and length. The only thing wrong with those certain players (Bynum, Gasol, Odom) is that they don’t always put forth the full effort. But that can be fixed without a deal.

The Lakers need to focus on the backcourt. They need a player just like the ones who scalded them play after play during these playoffs, such as Chris Paul and J.J. Barea. Fisher and Blake don’t have that kind of movement.

That pool isn’t very deep this year. Aaron Brooks might be intriguing. And hey, Barea is scheduled to hit the market, too. I know there’s a “if you can’t beat ’em” joke in there somewhere. But with the league’s inevitable lockout looming, who knows how many transactions, if any, will be made this summer.

For the rest of the crew, everyone stays on, including Ron Artest. He’s got a lot of wear and tear on him, but he can still be a very valuable player at his age. Although, I wouldn’t mind seeing 2010 draft pick Devin Ebanks get some more playing time next season. He looks like he could develop into a defensive stalwart.

The Los Angeles Lakers are done for this season — which I’m fine with because, one, it stops me from going gray over their lackadaisical play and, two, gets me fully focused on baseball — but their window has not shut like it’s about to in Boston or San Antonio. They just need to take a page from those teams still vying for a championship this season:

Get younger. Get more athletic, especially at point guard.

Of course, there are very few NBA teams that wouldn’t want that right now.

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