Archives For May 2011

The Lakers need a new head coach. Phil Jackson, and all his championship rings are saying goodbye to the Lakers and with his departure a new man will roam the sidelines as head coach. And, unless you’ve been grieving the Lakers early exit from the playoffs (something I wouldn’t knock you for), you’ve read that Rick Adelman has appeared as a person of interest to fill the Lakers’ vacancy. As Marc Stein and Dave McMenamin report:

Yet sources say Lakers officials are intrigued by the Adelman option, not only because of his history of success in Portland, Sacramento and Houston but also his reputation for thriving with veteran teams and the similarities between Adelman’s “corner” offense and Jackson’s “triangle” offense.

The question isn’t if Adelman would be a good fit, as the answer to that question is a certain yes. Adelman is an accomplished head coach that’s coached in the Finals and has a strong history of leading excellent teams deep into the playoffs.

The question is, however, what to make of the Lakers opening up their search when Brian Shaw has long been rumored to be next in line in replacing Phil Jackson. Some thoughts on this:

  • Brian Shaw is still a viable candidate and the person who should still be favored to get the position. He has the support of the current players (including Kobe Bryant), brings a familiar system, and has been groomed for this position. He’ll be interviewed for the job and all signs say that he’ll do well for himself in sitdowns with the Buss family and Mitch Kupchak.
  • The Lakers, as usual, will be patient with any major decision. When the Lakers traded Shaq, they looked at a variety of options before finally pulling the trigger on the deal with Miami. The backstory surrounding the Pau Gasol trade is that Mitch Kupchak worked the phones for nearly two seasons trying to pry the big Spaniard loose from the Grizzlies. When Kobe was angling for a trade before the 2007-08 season, they held firm that they would look at every deal with an open mind but clearly stated that they would only make a deal that made sense and improved their team. No such deal developed and two championships later their patience was rewarded. In the aftermath of the team’s early playoff exit, Mitch Kupchak has again preached that he’ll excercise patience and won’t make any rash decisions. He said they’ll begin their search in the next couple of weeks and I believe that even with names starting to leak to the press, Mitch and Buss family have in no way made up their mind.
  • Based off Adelman’s history of success and the fact that he runs a similar read and react offensive system, it’s clear that the Lakers understand their personnel and know what type of offensive system will work best for this group. Be it the Triangle or Adelman’s “corner” offense (that incorporates many aspects of the Princeton offense where back cuts and multiple off ball reads are made each play), the Lakers are built to be a passing and movement team – even if they didn’t execute those things well in the playoffs.
  • The Lakers want someone with experience managing players. Adelman has coached Ron Artest in the past. He’s coached superstar level players in Clyde Drexler, Yao Ming, and Tracy McGrady. Brian Shaw has a history of being a locker room leader as both a player and a coach and has related well to guys like Shaq, Kobe, and Pau Gasol. Whoever the Lakers next coach is, expect that he has a history with players of high stature.

Don’t expect Adelman and Shaw to be the only viable names, either. Reports are also surfacing that Chuck Person will be interviewed and that ex-Laker and Clipper head man Mike Dunleavy is someone that will be considered. While I doubt that either of these two will actually get the head job, understand that their inclusion in any list only further speaks to the Lakers wanting to be patient and explore their options.

No one understands better than this front office that the Lakers are built to win now. With the core of this roster locked up under contract for the next several years, this decision of who will coach the team is the most important one the organization will make this off-season. After it’s made I’m sure there will be options explored to improve the roster but getting this right is a priority.

And with hat being said, don’t be suprised if Dr. Buss (an avid poker player) slow plays this hand. He’s got time on his side and options to explore.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: It’s always enlightening to hear from Lamar Odom following any season, win or lose, and Wednesday was no exception. Odom is always good for a few laugh lines along with a healthy dose of honesty. Among the more notable moments came when Odom weighed a year of personal achievement- it was among his best seasons as a pro, arguably his strongest- with team disappointment. “It’s funny, but on the plane, that’s what kind of broke me down,” he said. “When I was with Derek [Fisher], and I was talking to him about individual success, but after experiencing championships? To hell with it. You go through so many things in life, and the one year when I get “noticed” or get accolades, or to work with my wife, the reality show, the fragrance happening, is the year my team comes up short. We lose. It’s just the way it is.”

From Daniel Bruege, Lakers Nation: Kobe Bryant has long been the best player in the NBA. Despite constant arguments from pundits claiming other players had surpassed him on the court he continued to prove why he was the best. But during the 2011 season he took a clear step backwards, as the beating his body has taken over the last decade finally seems to have caught up to him. ?However, it was announced that Bryant was named to the first team All-NBA and first team All-Defense teams once again. While Bryant did have a good season and was one of the best players in the league, both those awards should have gone to somebody else.

From Sam Amick, Sports Illustrated: There is a recent blueprint here, even if it’s a tad incomplete. The same Phil Jackson who headed off into retirement on Wednesday was close to doing this dance a year ago, thinking seriously about leaving the Lakers behind and forcing the purple-and-gold powers-that-be to plot this new plan. The rumblings could be heard even then, whispers that the vaunted triangle offense that had played such an intimate role in Jackson’s career wasn’t welcome anymore. Only Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss truly knows how badly he wants a new brand of basketball, an evolution into a Showtime-esque era that would require the right kind of coach and a more athletic roster to suit that style. But as the Lakers begin the league’s most high-profile coaching search in the coming weeks, that question will be crucial in the decision-making process

From Sam Amick, Sports Illustrated: By the time Kobe Bryant was done with his state of the union address at the Lakers’ practice facility, he had spoken for nearly 24 minutes. He reflected on the departure of Phil Jackson, shared his insight on what led to the end of this reign, and explained why the future remains as bright as the Southern California sun for the fans here. But his most telling message, the most obvious sign that the Bryant of old still plays a bigger role here than the old Bryant, took only a few seconds: “A wasted year of my life.”

From Broderick Turner, LA Times: Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw, who has become a hot candidate for a few head-coaching vacancies in the NBA, including his current team, has gotten the OK from management to interview for the Golden State Warriors head coach opening. “Yes, we have been given permission,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in a text message Thursday. He said the Lakers also gave assistant coach Chuck Person permission to talk to the Warriors.

From Matt McHale, By The Horns: In the NBA playoffs, thanks to the best-of-seven series, the better basketball team usually wins. That’s what happened last night. While it’s certainly true the Bulls haven’t always played up to their potential this postseason, they did it on the road in Game 6, blowing out the Hawks in their own arena. There were some crazy numbers in this one. Like Chicago’s 53.2 percent shooting. If you subtract their 3-for-13 effort from beyond the arc, the Bulls converted 59 percent of their two-pointers. And they registered 34 assists on their 41 made baskets. That’s pretty incredible.

From Bret Lagree, Hoop Onion: The problem with energy is that it’s finite. The Atlanta Hawks fell behind early in Game 5, they fell behind by a lot: 15 points just 10:37 into the game. They worked hard to get all of that back before the third quarter ended but had nothing left in the tank to compete effectively in the fourth. The Bulls played Taj Gibson and Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer for the entirety of the competitive portion of the fourth quarter. In normal circumstances, they aren’t collectively better than Jeff Teague and Josh Smith and Al Horford. When they’re fresh (none of the Chicago trio had played more than 10 minutes in the game prior to the fourth quarter) and the Hawks players are exhausted, well, energy won out. It’s not a knock on Teague or Smith or Horford or Joe Johnson that they ran out of gas three-quarters of the way through the 93rd game of the season. They gave all they had. Nor is Larry Drew in line for criticism for riding his starters too hard. Only Zaza Pachulia provided any productive auxiliary minutes. Jason Collins didn’t hurt the team when he was on the floor but he didn’t help, either.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  May 12, 2011

*The Lakers season may be over but that doesn’t mean the players still aren’t being recognized for their play during the campaign. Just today, Kobe Bryant was named to the All-NBA 1st Team and Pau Gasol was named to the 2nd team. This is Kobe’s 9th first team selection and his 6th straight overall. This is Gasol’s first 2nd team selection after making the 3rd team the past two seasons. Congrats to them both as this is high praise for their strong regular seasons.

*Speaking of Kobe, he made some comments in his exit interview that I’m sure many will find interesting. Specifically, his comments about Andrew Bynum’s position in the offensive pecking order (as reported by Marc J. Spears of Yahoo!) are already causing a bit of a stir:

“Ultimately, he’ll have to fall in line because I’m gonna shoot the ball,” Bryant said. “We all know that. Pau is going to get his touches. He’s No. 2. And then [Andrew] will have to fall in line.”

My interpretation of this is simple. Kobe’s not saying Bynum doesn’t deserve more touches. Kobe’s saying that (Kobe) is still the lead offensive player while Pau is the clear second option. While some may bristle at how this message was phrased and delivered, this is true, and should be in my opinion.

*None of this means that Bynum doesn’t deserve more touches. Simply put, he does. At whose expense and how he gets them within the context of the offense is the missing element in this discussion. This may not be that comforting to Laker fans, but look at the Miami Heat for an example of three really talented offensive players that all had successful seasons while divying up the offensive load. There’s no reason to think the Lakers can’t find a division of power with Bynum having a prominent seat at the table. In the end, let’s focus on on everything within a larger context rather than looking at a statement and narrowing it down to fit into our perception or argument about who Kobe is.

*To that point, whoever the new coach of this team is will dicatate a lot of how the offense flows, who are the go to players, and how to best use each player’s talents.

*Another topic that came up in Kobe’s exit interview was the concept of him not practicing. Kobe had a lot to say on this subject from his thoughts on how his teammates responded to what he envisions his practice habits to be like next season. For a great take on this subject, team dynamics, and getting back to the top, read this piece by Kevin Ding.

*As the playoffs roll on, an interesting stat that you’ll hear a lot will be that this will be the first season since 1998 that one of the Kobe, Shaq, Duncan trio isn’t in the Finals. Kind of amazing how those three players dominated this era.

*Speaking of the playoffs, they’re clearly not as enjoyable for us with the Lakers out. But, if you watch the games, there is some great basketball on display. That Thunder/Grizzlies series has been fantastic. And the Heat’s play against the Celtics was also a sight to see. If we do get  Mavs/Thunder and Bulls/Heat in the conference finals, I only expect these playoffs to get better.

*Enjoy this basketball while you can because the lockout is looking more and more like an inevitability. Especially based off this latest report.

*I don’t know about you, but I’m going to watch this.

*Lastly, not sure if you’ve seen this clip/tribute to Phil Jackson but it’s worth your time.

*(updated) I’d be remiss if I did’t mention that just because the Laker season is over doesn’t mean that we’re done covering this team and the league as a whole. Be it the draft, CBA negotiations, the next coach, and personnel changes, we’ll be right here for all of it.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: I get the sense he won’t miss these all that much. Most of what Phil Jackson said about the team, the loss to the Mavericks, and the season generally echoed his statements at the podium following Sunday’s loss. The most interesting stuff from Wednesday’s exit interview- and this time there’s every reason to believe in the exit part- came in those moments of introspection, in which Jackson looked back on his career, reflected on why he came back to the Lakers in 2005 and why he’s leaving (for good) now.  One particularly interesting moment came when Jackson was asked to evaluate his strengths and weaknesses as a coach:

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: I come not to praise Pau Gasol, but I’m not here to bury him, either. He was completely, unequivocally, and unacceptably bad throughout the postseason for the Lakers, not simply in a statistical sense, but in his ability to impact games, grease the offense, contribute on the defensive side, and more. In nine games, Gasol failed even once to meet his season scoring average, and shot an unbelievably un-Pauian 42 percent from the floor. Gasol is a four-time All-Star, a two-time champion, and a guy working towards a Hall of Fame career. It demeans him not to expect more than what he gave over the 10 playoff games the Lakers played this season.

From Arash Markazi, ESPNLA: There is a closet inside Brian Shaw’s bedroom that takes him back to a time he wishes would stand still. He finds himself inside the small room every summer in late June, on the floor, touching the remnants of a past he can’t let go. He unzips a garment bag, takes out a shirt his father wore to work, his mother’s favorite coat, his sister’s jumpsuit. He hugs the clothes, brings them up to his face and close to his chest as if he were still hugging and kissing those who once wore them. This wasn’t how Shaw was supposed to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and championships, alone, surrounded by old clothes and fading memories. Reliving the horrible night of June 26, 1993.

From Raymona Shelbourne, ESPNLA: here was sorrow in their final parting, but nothing left unsaid. The Los Angeles Lakers’ season may not have ended as either of them wanted, but Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson left on the best of terms. Finished as coach and player, but not as friends. Ready to part and for the next part of their lives, but not to say goodbye. Against all odds they grew together in their second act, forging an unlikely friendship that left both of them better men. When they parted for good Wednesday afternoon at the Lakers’ training facility, Bryant seemed sentimental but not shaken. He will miss Jackson, but does not need him anymore. Having listened and learned, he is ready to lead on his own. “His philosophy on the game, his philosophy on life is something I’ve adopted, and I carry it with me,” Bryant said of his now-former coach. “I don’t think that’s going to change.”

From Dexter Fishmore, SB Nation: Phil Jackson is stepping down as head coach of the Lakers, but his ghost isn’t going anywhere. Phil’s presence will continue to hang over everything that happens in Lakerdom long after someone else has taken over on the sidelines. Depending on whom the team hires as his successor, the offensive and defensive systems Phil installed might remain the core of the playbook. The assistants he’s groomed over the years, Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons, could stay on the payroll. His protégé Brian Shaw in a strong candidate to ascend to the Lakers’ head gig. To the front office, Shaw represents the “stay the course” option. His hiring would be a play to ensure maximum continuity from the Phil Jackson era, akin to the election of George H.W. Bush after Ronald Reagan served out his two terms.

From Shane Baker, Larry Brown Sports: “Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum killed the Los Angeles Lakers. Ron Artest is a mess.Lamar Odom could net L.A. some great pieces. The Lakers should trade for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. It’s the only chance L.A. has to ever win another title again. That’s the only way Mitch Kupchak and Dr. Jerry Buss can fix the Lakers in the offseason!” Seems ludicrous? Nonsense! This is Hollywood and there are no limits to one’s imagination, regardless of how asinine and improbable the notions may be.

From Daniel Buerge, Lakers Nation: During their exit interviews today Derek Fisher and Luke Walton endorsed former Laker and current assistant coach Brian Shaw as the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Phil Jackson’s imminent departure leaves an opening on the team for a head coach, and one of the most popular rumors this season has been that Los Angeles will promote Brian Shaw from assistant to head coach. Earlier this season during a game in Portland Kobe Bryant also endorsed Shaw. The quotes from Fisher and Walton seem to emulate Bryant’s original comments.

From Royce Young, Daily Thunder: fter Game 4, I think most of us said something like, “Man, I don’t think I can take another one of those.” So in Game 5, the Thunder took care of us. They ended it in three quarters, not overtimes. The Thunder straight up ran over the Grizzlies in the most pivotal game of the series. The first quarter was close, but after that, it was on. This team flipped something on and basically dump-trucked Memphis for three quarters. The defense was spectacular, the Thunder shot the lights out, the energy never wavered and in the end, Oklahoma City took the biggest game in the series 99-72 to take a 3-2 series lead. I’m not sure I could really pinpoint a moment the game turned, but the Thunder certainly appeared to be the team with the energy. It was probably the home crowd that lifted them up, but the Grizzlies just had an unfocused look about them. They missed a ton of layups, went 14-23 from the line and between Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, Memphis only got 24 points and 12 rebounds. Credit the Thunder defense for sure, but the Grizzlies didn’t appear ready for the punch the Thunder threw. And when it connected, they just wilted.

From Rob Mahoney, Miami Heat Index: When LeBron James caught the ball on the left wing with two minutes and 14 seconds remaining in Game 5, he didn’t hesitate. He squared up, rose and fired off the kind of shot he’s been criticized for taking so many times before. James is too effective off the dribble to settle for contested jumpers on a frequent basis, but with the game tied at 87 and Paul Pierce practically daring him to release a 3-pointer, James just couldn’t help himself. The shot went up and in, Doc Rivers called a timeout to regroup, and James sauntered to Miami’s huddle, soaking in every bit of the arena’s energy and Boston’s desperation.

From Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Hoop Speak: Russell Westbrook now battles the Grizzlies while fighting a negative perception. The point guard is a rising force but his teammate is still the bigger name with the better jumper. Failure to get the ball to Durant means Westbrook has selfishly hindered a hero, an awful sin of pride. This is the narrative that resonates around the playoffs water cooler, and it’s compelling as hell. But, I wonder: Is the story more about how Durant hasn’t met expectations and less about how Westbrook has undermined? Though we may remember this as Derrick Rose’s MVP year, its beginning was so much pomp for Kevin Durant’s MVP coronation. The young small forward was coming off a fantastic season, and a dominant World Championship offseason. He was the accidental hero of The Decision backlash, primed for a run at that “best player alive” title. But, Oklahoma City spent a decent season on the media periphery as Rose took the NBA mantle of, “coolest doe-eyed humility beacon.” In the background, Durant played well enough to remain a superstar, even if he lacked for the preseason-level of attention.

The Laker players are going through their exit interviews and there is plenty of good insight and information being dispensed. If you’ve not seen them, head over the team website and catch up on what you’ve missed to this point and watch what you can through the rest of today.

One of the interviews I found most interesting was Luke Walton’s time on the mic. In his media sit down, he relayed a lot of good information about the many lessons he learned from Phil Jackson and also found time to endorse Brian Shaw as the next head man. But, there were also several nuggets relayed about why this team didn’t perform the way that it should have this season. We covered this topic some ourselves, but it’s always great to hear the perspective of an insider – especially one who has such a great feel for the game and can point out the failings from the standpoint of the X’s and O’s.

And one of the passages that caught my eye was his discussion of the team’s execution of the triangle:

I think our execution of the triangle was not at the same level its been over the past few years, as far as picking teams apart. It was basic this year, a lot of simple aspects of the offense, not the second and third and counter options that make it so hard to guard especially in a playoffs series, when everyone else runs sets and we know what sets they’re running, where they’re going to go. With us, no matter what you do defensively, there’s always a counter to counter that. We never got into that too much this year.

I couldn’t agree more with Walton’s statement and feel that if the Lakers are to stick with the offense that expanding on how deep they go into the playbook is a priority.

Too often this year, the Lakers ran the simple clear out cuts, elbow hand off sequences, sideline P&R’s, and weak side initiation options that are the staples off the triangle. But, what was missing were many the secondary reads that players off the ball need to make in order to counter a defense that’s locked in on the player with ball.

Everytime a player sets a screen, there’s an option to make himself available to the ball handler for a pass. That player can make a cut back to the ball, seal the man he picked for an entry pass, or slip the screen entirely and flow into open space. How many times did we see this last year? Other options include all the fake hand offs that lead to a variety of other alternative sets that the Lakers rarely ran.

Beyond these alternative actions, it was also easy to see that the players didn’t seem all that interested in moving off the ball at all. That’s an even bigger problem than the one that Luke described. As Kelly Dwyer notes in a very good piece on Pau Gasol:

Not only was Gasol turned into a more orthodox pick-and-roll partner with both Bryant and Derek Fisher in the playoffs, but he was also asked to be a typical low-post presence. He has succeeded at times in both roles during his career, but more often than not Gasol struggles to hit that baseline jumper that was afforded him many times in the playoffs (he prefers it at the elbow extended), and he’s out of his element when handed the ball down low, with nobody cutting off of him. The Lakers just dumped it in, and watched. It was almost shocking to behold, for those of us who have watched this team’s offense so intently, as two and sometimes three Lakers stayed on the strong side as Gasol was asked to go to work, his thin frame poorly suited to uproot defenders and pile in for the jump hook.

Dwyer’s a long time fan of this offense (he is a Bulls supporter that saw Phil Jackson led teams dominate the league with this offense in the 90’s) and his point is well made. Too often the Lakers simply stood around and watched their talented teammates take on the defense with the hope (expectation?) that it would produce a bucket. The fact that it didn’t as often as it did should come as no surprise considering how successful isolations are (even in the post) in compared to players shooting coming off screens, cuts, and hand off situations.

These failings can be placed at the feet of many parties, which actually leads me to blaming the entire team – coaches and players included. At this point, I’m not ready to claim that sticking with the Triangle is the only viable option in a life without Jackson on the sidelines, but whatever offense the Lakers run I hope that they explore it fully and execute it well as that’s the best way to dominate an opposing defense. I’ll leave the last point for T. Rogers who said it well in the comments:

When a team moves the ball effectively and has threats all over the floor defending them is nearly impossible. I would love to see a more equitable Laker offense. Theoretically, the Triangle is supposed to be the perfect offense for utilizing the entire team. For a variety of reasons we just did not see that as much as we needed to this year. That has to change.

It’s been nearly three days since the Lakers’ season ended. As the smoke clears from that final loss, it’s now becoming easier to see what went wrong in a season where expectations for more were so prevalent. Looking only at the loss to the Mavericks only does us so much good. They may have delivered the final death blow, but the autopsy shows us many other contributing factors to the Lakers’ demise.

So, we look back at a season gone wrong, trying to pinpoint what exactly happened. Below are my 4 biggest factors in the Lakers failure to remain on top.

1). The Lakers template for winning became inverted…again. In 2008 the Lakers rode a dominant offense and an above average defense to a Finals appearance, ultimately losing to the Celtics. In 2009 and 2010, the Lakers inverted their philosophy to becoming a much better defensive team with their offense slightly regressing. In those two seasons they ranked in the top 5 of defensive efficiency for most of the year and rode their ability to get stops to back to back championships. Game 7’s slugfest against Boston will always be cited as a game in which the Lakers’ offense was awful (save for their ability to grab their own misses) but what is consistently overlooked is how the C’s offense was just as bad. The Lakers got the key stops that night. This year, that template inverted another time. Besides their fantastic push after the all star break where they saw their defensive efficiency jump from 10th to 6th in a month long push, the Lakers played only above average defense while their offense (ranked in the top 5 for nearly the entire season) carried them to wins. Whether this shift was a point of emphasis amongst the coaches and players or not is irrelevant. What matters is that the Lakers only temporarily found their stride on defense and that only occurred after a “shift” in scheme. Sadly, that shift didn’t hold up through the playoffs and the Lakers found themselves scrambling on that side of the ball to the point that the Mavs set an all time record in made three pointers in the last basketball this team played.

2). Call it fatigue, lack of hunger, complacency, inconsistent focus or any other adjective you’d like but the Lakers simply couldn’t summon their best ball consistently enough. After coming off an epic game 7 the previous season, maybe the 82 game campaign didn’t inspire the same type of devotion. Maybe after playing 300 games over the previous three seasons finally caught up to the core of this team. However it’s explained, looking back at this year it’s now clear that this team had an inability to consistently meet the challenge of their foes. Phil Jackson described it as enduring nightly assaults year after year and I think that aptly describes the process of trying to repeat as champion. While throughout the year they put together enough wins to quiet the critics and convince their believers that they’d put together another run like the year previous, that proved to be untrue. This team simply didn’t have enough in the tank, mentally or physically, to endure another 20-something game second season. It finally all caught up to them.

3). The wrong injuries at the wrong times truly hurt this team. Andrew Bynum missed 24 games to start the regular season after recovering from his knee summer knee surgery. That, in and of itself, isn’t as big a deal as the Lakers have had to deal with missing Bynum in the past. However, when combined with Theo Ratliff (signed in the off-season to be the 4th big man) also going down with a knee injury the Lakers suddenly found themselves without adequate big man depth. This ended up pushing Pau Gasol into unsustainable minute allocations and leading to him getting worn down. His December and January swoon came after a November that saw him average 40 minute a game, including 7 of the 15 contests where he played 44 minutes or more. And while Pau bounced back to more normal level of production, he never truly regained the form that saw him mentioned among MVP candidates early in the season.

Kobe’s knee and ankle issues also plagued him nearly the entire year. At the start of the season, he was bombarded by questions about the status of his surgically repaired knee as keen observers could tell that it was hampering him – especially on defense. As his knee strengthened it became less of an issue accept in the fact that he and Phil put together a plan that kept him out of most practices in order to keep the wear and tear down over the course of a long season. Knowing how much practice time means to Kobe and Phil in their philosophies related to building chemistry and reinforcing good habits, this lack of shared court time surely contributed to the results this year. When you add in Kobe’s horrific ankle injury – one that I still can’t believe he was able to play through – and Barnes’ knee injury that cost him 28 games and his explosiveness on both sides of the ball when he did return, you have a mix of minor injuries that just piled up for this team. Obviously you build depth to overcome these things (as the Lakers did with Odom, Artest, and Shannon Brown all filling for their mates to help compensate) but in the end, the effect the injuries had were real.

4). The lack of dependable outside shooting finally did this team in. In the ’09 and ’10 championship seasons and coming into this season, the Lakers lack of shooting was thought to be a major issue with this team. In the years that the Lakers did bring home the title, enough players stepped up their shooting to the point that it became a strength of the team. Be it Ariza and Odom in ’09 or Fisher and Artest last year, the Lakers hit enough shots to win. This year, however, that didn’t happen. At least not for sustained periods. Sure, at the beginning of the season Shannon Brown, Steve Blake, and Lamar Odom hit their 3 point shots at an amazing rate. But while Odom kept his shooting up above his career norm for the entire season, everyone else regressed. Brown’s ability to hit the open shot deteriorated to the point that you could visibly see his second guessing when open jumpers became available. Steve Blake’s aggression never caught up to his ability to actually hit the shot and then a slump took over him as well. Fisher, normally old reliable, hit a respectable 39.6% of his threes on the year but went cold in the post-season. And Kobe shot a very poor 32% from deep but did so on over 4 attempts per game. As the Lakers tossed up misses, their big men felt the pressure of having to convert shots inside with perimeter defenders sitting in their laps. By the time the Dallas series ended, you’d often see 5 Maverick defenders within a step of the paint, ready to double team big men and close off angles for offensive rebounds. Without the shooting to loosen up the D, both in the playoffs and in the regular season, the Lakers became overly reliant on mid-range jumpers and post players that became worn down as the year progressed. That’s not a winning formula.

In the end, I’m sure many will come up with other reasons for the Lakers demise. Maybe for you it was the off-season signings or the inability to run the Triangle; the lack of athleticism or an over reliance of Kobe to be the only wing player that could create his own shot. I’m sure all of those played a part – big and small – in what we saw this season. But I still believe that the Lakers had a team capable of winning but didn’t due to the reasons above. Every season has its ups and downs and its obstacles to winning. It just so happens that the Lakers couldn’t overcome them this year.

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: For all parties involved — fans, media, and especially, the Lakers themselves — Sunday’s 122-86 loss to the Dallas Mavericks was a sucker punch finale to a season steeped in misdirection. The preseason favorite among pundits and General Managers, an underwhelming regular season left the Lakers no longer regarded as bullet proof entering the playoffs, but still a force to be reckoned with. The first round created more doubts, and believing meant also buying into an exceptionally difficult path, despite home-court advantage in the West unexpectedly regained.  But not even the most skeptical Lakers fans (or zealous Mavericks fans) can honestly claim to have foreseen the bodies left for dead in Dallas. It’s one thing to get upset. It’s quite another to get swept, and in fashion even the “Jail Blazer” squads would have deemed classless. The world Lakers fans knew has steadily spiraled in an unfamiliar direction, and by Sunday’s end, had been turned completely upside down.’s 5-on-5: Before Phil Jackson rides off into the sunset, we tracked down five guys who know a thing or two about coaching to explain the Hall-of-Famer’s impact on the game during his 20-year tenure and what lies ahead. What was Phil’s greatest strength? We he ever coach again? Our star-studded five-man coaching staff breaks it down:

From Joey Whelan, Hoop Speak: On Saturday, the venerable Tom Ziller penned a column discussing the peculiar and unsure future for the Lakers and their enigmatic big man Andrew Bynum. This future – difficult to predict before – has suddenly been thrust into a spin cycle of uncertainty following the center’s contemptible actions in the closing minutes of Los Angeles’ season-ending loss to the Dallas Mavericks yesterday. Initial questions will center around the severity of the almost inevitable punishment that will be levied against Bynum, but perhaps the overarching issue will be whether the 23-year-old has a realistic future with his current franchise. This isn’t a knee jerk reaction to a single act, a moment of weakness and frustration from a young player that manifested itself in the worst way possible. It’s more complex than that, because the last 72 hours yielded at once the best and worst that Bynum has to offer moving forward for the Lakers.

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: Yesterday, the Los Angeles Lakers saw their season come to a stunning, early, and shameful end, losing to the Dallas Mavericks, 122-86, and being ignominiously swept out of the playoffs a full two rounds earlier than they have advanced for the past three years.  Stunning?  I meant predictable.  After all, before Game 3, I all but called how this series would end, committing to words exactly how badly Laker teams have flamed out in those of the last 15 years that haven’t ended with parades.  Early? Hindsight is obviously 20/20 here, but based upon this series, and what we know of the limitations of the team faced in the last round, one has to ask if the Lakers would even have advanced past round one if they had faced any team but the one they did.  It is no coincidence that, of the eight teams which advanced to Round 2, all the other ones are still playing, because they are all better than whatever it is the Lakers became in their final weeks.  Using the Hornets as a baseline, and the Mavericks as the team to measure against, one has to believe the Lakers would likely have lost to any other team in the West.

From Eddie Maisonet, Ed The Sports Fan: This 21st century version of the Lakers brought something different. When the Shaqobe Lakers’ were in full force, they seemed literally unbeatable. However, was it just me or did it seem like Lakers’ fans seemed very segmented on who they pulled for. It wasn’t just “The Lakers” it was… “Man, its all about Shaq.” “Kobe is the greatest player in the league, tell Shaq to get out the way.” “This team would be nothing without Shaquille O’Neal.” “Shaq needs Kobe more than Kobe needs Shaq.” It almost seemed like Lakers’ fans were pulling their own team apart for no reason. Only a few sane Lakers’ fans realized the true greatness that a Shaqobe pairing with both parties buying in meant that this duo was literally unstoppable. However, as much as the fans seemed segmented, the players did too.

From Zach Lowe, The Point Forward: Yes, Kobe is a wonderful defensive player when the moment calls for it. He can guard three positions, he accepts challenges (Chris Paul in this year’s playoffs, Russell Westbrook in last year’s), he’s a smart helper and he can change a game on that end. But he did few of these things during the bulk of the regular season, and this award, as far as I understand it, is designed to honor players for their contributions on defense over a full season. Kobe spent much of this season relaxing as often as possible on defense while Ron Artest took on the heaviest wing (and sometimes, point guard) assignments. This was smart strategy! Kobe suffered some pretty serious knee problems at the end of the 2009-10 season, and the Lakers knew they would need him at full strength in May and June (whoops!) to win the title this season. Sparing him as many taxing defensive assignments as possible was a sound move, but it should have disqualified Bryant from any serious consideration for a first-team spot.

From David Murphy, Searching for Slava: The end was like the beginning and like places in-between – a season of sections and distractions, of poetry and hero stances and the flipping of a switch that had grown old and unreliable.  A month ago I wrote, “there’s been three four-game skids now and we’re all just rolling the dice that it doesn’t happen in a seven game series.  Because then it’s over.”   And so, the season coughed and sputtered and spun on its haunches before settling down to die, looking at us one last time, asking if it was okay to go now.  It was. Danny Chau penned a piece that likened the end to a melting sun.  Darius Soriano wrote about disappointment turning to reflection.  Brian Kamenetzky invoked Japanese monster movies while brother Andy pointed out the lack of nuance in a lopsided loss.  And, Dexter Fishmore described a low point in Lakers’ history. Different takes on a difficult subject, sharing the commonality of good writing. I am indebted to them and so many others, for keeping me entertained and sated over the course of a topsy-turvy season.

From Broderick Turner, LA Times: The Lakers have to fill a very big void now that Coach Phil Jackson is walking away into retirement — again. The decision on the new Lakers coach will be made by owner Jerry Buss, his son Jim Buss, the team’s executive vice president of player personnel, and General Manager Mitch Kupchak. The Lakers can only hope this hire turns out better than the last time they replaced Jackson. The Lakers hired Rudy Tomjanovich as coach, but he lasted only 41 games into the 2004-05 season before leaving because of health problems. Who will succeed Jackson is a hot topic around the NBA. But after talking to many general managers, scouts, coaches and players, there seems to be no clear-cut favorite for the job. So, in keeping with the guessing game, here’s a snapshot of some likely candidates to become the next Lakers coach:

Lastly, the LA Times has a cool photo essay highlight Phil Jackson’s playing and coaching careers. Tons of memories and fantastic photography. You can check it out here.

There will be a new NBA Champion this year.

This is something that the Lakers players, coaches, executives, and fans face today. Sometime in June there will be a final buzzer with confetti, tears of joy, and champagne spraying and the guys we root for will be missing from the celebration. They’ll be on vacation somewhere while we watch from our couches (at least I’ll be watching).

The league moves on quickly and those teams that fall behind in the wake of those that advance are capsized and forgotten. Such is the way of sports. We haven’t felt this way in some time, but we confront these feelings today as fans of this team.

There is anger, disappointment, grief, and frustration. It’s hard to watch this team go out the way that it did and not be upset and second guess; to point to all the errors and feel that things could have been so different. This team was pounded into submission and its players didn’t respond as we’d hoped and when they did respond it was in frustration and dirty play. This is not the team that we’ve come to expect or root for.

There’s also perspective and pride. This team – or at least its core – has achieved so much over the past three seasons. They went from a team on the brink of being disbanded at the beginning of the 2008 season to one that reached three straight Finals with two Larry O’Brien trophies to show for their efforts. Yesterday’s victimization doesn’t erase those achievements – nothing can or will. The fall from the mountain top is a hard one but the fact that the top of the mountain was reached at all is something to be cherished.

But in balancing these feelings and as the reality of what’s occurred settles in, I’m stuck thinking about where to go from here. After all, change will occur, to what extent is the question. But in even exploring that question, another question arises in which the answer will define what you think should come next.

How do you view this team?

Today, many will view this group within a vacuum. As the reasoning goes, the Phil Jackson lost this team. The offense stopped working. Discipline was short and freelancing ruled. Players failed to live up to their abilities, playing sub par basketball for extended stretches. Pau Gasol disappeared, Kobe took on the burden of doing too much and the chemistry of a champion crumbled. Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, and Derek Fisher all came up short when their team needed them the most and the bench did little to support them in this time of need. There are varying degrees of truth to all of this and I would not blame people for taking this approach. After all, we do live in a world judged on wins and losses and instant-critiques.

This mindset naturally lends itself to the Magic Johnson school of thought: blow up the team. They are too old, not athletic enough, and obviously are no longer built to succeed (that 2nd round sweep being the proof). With a new coach coming in, now is the time to reshape this team in the mold of its new leader; emphasizing a new style to match the new voice.

The long view offers a different shaded lens.  This team needs not a new core of players but trims around the edges. Younger more athletic players are needed but not at the expense of the size and big man play that’s been so successful up to this point. A bad playoffs isn’t an indictment of the approach, it’s the result of so many long and arduous battles. As Phil Jackson said after the game yesterday, continuing to respond to the nightly assaults of hungry teams is exhausting mentally and physically over the course of multiple seasons. This team doesn’t need to be completely torn apart, it needs rest to reset their minds and bodies and prepare for a new push next season.

For me, I’m much more aligned with the latter point of view. An influx of youth, perimeter defense, and shooting is needed. But, the Laker big men and Kobe are still quite capable of leading this team to a championship. The players that surround them need to be looked at closely in order to maximize the results from the entire team. This isn’t to scapegoat the bench (though they did perform poorly) but rather to look at the overall weaknesses of this group and try to improve them. The problem with this approach is improving the team without giving up a core player will be difficult.

Ultimately, the future begins today but how the team approaches that future will depend on what they think of their core, who they think their core is, and what an evaluation of the mental make up of the roster produces (not to mention who the next coach is). Patience will be key, but practicing patience after early playoff exits is quite difficult. I trust this team to make the right decisions but defining what’s “right” will probably depend on your perspective after this loss.