The Los Angeles Lakers, the two-time defending champs, with arguably a top 10 player of all time (will discuss this later), with one of the greatest and the most decorated coach in NBA history, are out of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. They just didn’t lose. They were swept. And in embarrassing fashion as well. The Lakers were blown out in Game 4 (Sunday May 8th) 122-86. They also committed some very unsportsmanlike acts; Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum were both ejected in the 4th quarter and within 45 seconds of each other. Odom’s was not that bad; he shoved Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki with a hard elbow but no damage was done. Bynum on the otherhand delivered an outright cheap shot when he speared Dallas point guard J.J. Barea, the smallest guy on the court standing at 5’10, as he was in the air while driving to the basket. Bynum also further disgraced himself by removing his jersey on his way off the court. Barea came down very hard and could have been severely injured. Thank god he wasn’t or you would be hearing a lot moar outrage. Check the foul out for yourself here. On a quick side note, Barea made the shot, which was incredible. As ESPN’s J.A. Adande said via his Twitter, “Lost in that cheap attack by Bynum…Barea actually made the shot. That’s a helluva and-one.” After the game both players were interviewed. Odom at least said he was sorry and admitted he acted out of frustration. Bynum did not. He showed no remorse and explained that his reasoning for committing the egregious foul was that he was tired of Barea driving down the lane. Wow. Really? Really Bynum? He later apologized on Tuesday, but he ain’t fooling anyone, especially this writer. Barea did the classy thing and accepted his apology, and he got the last laugh since his team is moving on and the Lakers are left now with a ton of questions.
First and foremost is the retirement of Phil Jackson. I for one think Jackson is done. For real. One thing to note was that he admitted he was very relieved that the season was over. All season long you could tell that Jackson simply wasn’t comfortable coaching this particular team. They lacked focus. They lacked chemistry. I’m sure trying to get these guys prepared was a frustrating task. He even had to be swayed to return for one moar season. I’m sure the temptation of going for his fourth three-peat also had something to do with his return, but Jackson has for a few seasons hinted that he was simply tired of coaching. But instead of going out a champ, he leaves in a humiliating fashion. Yes it’s ugly the way he went out, but this series certainly won’t tarnish an amazing career in the slightest. It’s been a fun ride Jackson; watching you and Michael Jordan in the ’90’s is what made me a basketball fan. Now who do you replace a legend with? The list includes Laker assistant coach Brian Shaw, former Houston Rockets coach Rick Adelman, former Los Angeles Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, and current TV analyst Jeff van Gundy. Personally I would give the job to Shaw. There are a few reasons for my reasoning: he has the support and respect of Kobe Bryant (which is extremely important, as the coach would not have to be afraid of telling Kobe to “shut the fuck up” on occasions) and he’s familiar in the clubhouse. That second point is also extremely important. With the threat of a lockout looming, and with a roster that’s only getting older, now’s not the time to shake things up. Touching on this, a new coach would also bring in a new offensive system. These players have been playing in the “Triangle Offense” for over a decade now. Trying to implement a new system with a bunch of old timers is a great risk, especially with as I mentioned earlier, the threat of a lockout. Sure Adelman’s “corner” system is similar to the “triangle” but it’s not the same, just similar. Dunleavy is a good friend of the Buss family but hiring him would be a PR nightmare. van Gundy seems very content with staying put for now. Go with Shaw. Also, check out this video that Sports Science did on the “Triangle Offense.” I’m familiar with how the system works but this video makes things so much easier to understand.
Second up is the roster. Many have said that owner Jerry Buss has to blow it up and start new. My question is why? This is pretty much the same roster that went to three straight Finals and won two. Besides, they have almost all of them under contract through next season, so who exactly do they get rid of? Laker fans are screaming to trade for Dwight Howard. And half the media is convinced that Howard will come to L.A. when he hits free agency, so it only makes sense that Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith pick up the phone, call the Lakers, and arrange a trade right? Wrong. Here’s a few reasons: 1) There’s still a whole season before Howard becomes a free agent; perhaps Smith puts a championship caliber team around Howard. 2) Blockbuster trades are also tricky; the Magic are going to want as much as they can get and would likely want to package some dead weight (*cough*Gilbert Arenas*cough*) which the Lakers would never agree to. 3) Lastly, we have no idea what Howard will do. Bottom line is the media loves to hype things up. And Laker fans are some of the most delusional fans in the word. Ever since the Pau Gasol trade in ’08, they think they can get anyone they want for basically nothing. Don’t worry Laker fans I’m not completely bashing you. As a Yankee fan, I know there are plenty of delusional Yankee fans who think we can just buy whoever we want. Well sorry to say we can’t. Just ask Cliff Lee. Anyways, if I were Mr. Buss I wouldn’t take apart the current roster. The worst thing to do is to panic; the Lakers had an incredible season. Sure anything less than a championship is disappointing, the same goes for being a Yankee fan (although I like to think I’m a reasonable Yankee fan and realize it’s impossible to win every year…although I do expect to at least contend). If anything, the Lakers should add, not subtract. Their bench is in need of a huge upgrade. They also need a decent point guard since Derek Fisher just isn’t cutting it anymore and both Steve Blake (who’s bad) and Shannon Brown (who’s just stupid) don’t seem up to it.
A few moar notes on the players. If anyone were to go it would be Bynum; he’s their biggest trade asset. However, his injury history might scare away many teams. I’m sure the Magic could get moar from other teams than a package with Bynum as the centerpiece. Gasol has once again become “GaSoft” again. It was only a matter of time before his true self came to light again. If there’s anyone who’s mislabeled as soft it would be Dirk. But that’s for a later time. Ron Artest proves once again that he’s unpredictable. Fisher is as old as dirt. Kobe still has game but obviously has slowed down significantly. For being a supposed “closer”, he failed to close any games this series. I’m not putting all the blame on him like some are (including that idiot Skip Bayless). GaSoft surely didn’t help. But when you have a reputation of being a closer and a person who takes over games, I expect that person to follow through. The Lakers had leads going into the fourth quarter in Games 1 and 3. No excuse. Finally all the ridiculous Jordan comparisons can stop. Now to the top 10 discussion I promised. I put him right outside. My top 10 in no particular order minus the #1 guy? Jordan (duh), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, Oscar Robertson, and Tim Duncan. It’s ironic that I have Kobe’s mate Shaquille O’Neal also sitting right outside the top 10. Interesting article by ESPN’s Scoop Jackson on Kobe’s place in the top 10: Ranking Kobe Bryant.
For moar on the Lakers check below:
Marc Stein: Is this really the end for Phil Jackson?
Dave McMenamin: Uncomfortable questions being for L.A.
J.A. Adande: Lakers swept away, begin transition
Ramona Shelburne: Phil Jackson deserved better than this
Ok that’s enough talk about the Lakers. Now on to the Boston Celtics. They were ousted in Game 5 97-87 by a younger, moar athletic Miami Heat team. I’m not going to touch a lot on this series as much as I did the Laker series because 1) they weren’t swept and 2) there wasn’t nearly as much pressure (the Lakers were going for a three-peat and Jackson was retiring) and 3) I picked the Heat to win anyways in six games; they just happened to finish them off a game earlier. The signs were there for the Celtics like they were for the Lakers, especially near the end of the regular season. The Kendrick Perkins trade, while not the biggest factor for the loss like many fans believe, was definitely a contributing one. That destroyed a lot of the team’s chemistry. They limped into the postseason and shot themselves in the foot by losing the #2 seed and homecourt advantage in the second round. And like the Lakers, they’re just old. They had fourth quarter leads in both Game 4 and 5 and failed to deliver. That Game 4 loss was particularly devastating. Also, the combination of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade was just too much for the old C’s. It’s like that old saying, “Divided we fall, united we stand.” James and Wade got the message and tore the C’s a new one. They made Paul Pierce and Ray Allen look silly. I will say that Rajon Rondo’s injury was unlucky and did throw another wrench in Boston’s game. Believe me, I experienced the exact same injury as Rondo (a dislocated elbow) and it blew my mind that he was out there playing. Regardless, there were just too many factors that contributed to the loss and now the questions will start. What will Doc Rivers do? What to do with the aging roster? I’m not really sure who’s in worse shape. I want to say the Celtics, but it’s really a coin toss. Watch this ESPN NBA Shootaround clip. They make some good points.
UPDATED 5/13: Doc Rivers agrees to a five-year extension. Also Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge discusses what the C’s need to do in the offseason (video below).
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