The loss hurts tonight, knowing how close we were to the second round, but as the wound heals we must remember that this was a solid Laker season, with big steps made after the disaster of last year.
A course has been set, weâ€™re a triangle team. The defense, which had its ups and downs this season, was still much better than the year before. Key guys learned the triangle and got better as the year wore on, with Lamar Odom being on the top of that list. Smush was a find, Kwame improved. Those two have shortcomings, which were exposed in the playoffs, but donâ€™t take away from them what they did this season.
And, Kobe established himself as the leader of this team and the best player in the NBA.
If at the start of this season you had been offered a deal where this Laker team would win 45 games, and take the number two seed seven games in the first round, you would have been a fool not to take it. Itâ€™s hard to overstate how far this team came from the rudderless ship that was the franchise at the end of last season.
What we saw were some big first steps back to being great again. Keep watching with me this summer to see what the next steps will be â€“ weâ€™ll start talking about it Monday.
(By the way, all the things the Lakers did to the Suns in the first few games, but couldnâ€™t later, are things the Clippers do better than the Lakers. The Suns may be lucky to get this to a sixth game,)