LA vs Oklahoma: and now we know.
Posted by: SPQR on Mar 30, 2012 - 01:02 AM
And so it ends, unlike the Dallas series, officially this time. No more questions, no more hopes or dreams, no wondering. As the carcass of the former world champion Los Angeles Lakers was picked clean to the very marrow of the bone, in their own house, buy the Thunder, the end of an era has arrived.|
In a game the Lakers had to win to show they still rated a punchers chance to come out of the west, it all fell apart in the second half against a younger, quicker, hungrier, more athletic team that has left LA in its wake.
The Lakers came out strong, staking dominance inside and on the boards to take a nice lead. But as is the case when an inferior team plays with heart and emotion, the full course of the 48 minute run are the knives that flay and strip bare what each team really has and ultimately reveals truths that sometimes are hard to take once talent becomes the deciding factor.
For the Lakers, these truths are now painfully self-evident. Oklahoma isn’t just the better team, they own the Lakers. Don’t believe me? Just watch what happens if they meet in the playoff crucible.
The Lakers put up one last hard stand against the Thunder....and came up way short. And now we know some truths.
And what brings about these truths? Where do the flaws lie that has changed us from champs to mere mortal team that has no championship hopes this year?
There was a very interesting post earlier in the week by Lakeshowsd. In it he talked about, In lieu of the losing after the acquisition of Sessions that the point guard was not the only problem on this team. He was dead right in that post.
This Lakers team has myriad problems that have knocked it from its lofty perch. The bench provides little scoring. We need a player there who can really manufacture shots, and points, at a high percentage. We have three players who command double team respect, but precious few who can take advantage of that fact by hitting open shots. And three point shooting? Abysmal for a college team, let alone a collection of pros. The forward position is also sadly undermanned. Besides Pau, we have no forward we can rely on to get even ten points, let alone twenty on any consistent basis. This is devastating.
And there is another issue that is becoming more and more apparent. This is an issue that will cause debate and argument to kingdom come on LTB, but it is there, it is real and no amount of denial will make it go away. We are led by an aging superstar who is becoming a shadow of the player who could lead a team to championships.
This comment is not meant to disparage the great Kobe Bryant. But it is a factual acknowledgement of what age does to all mortal, including his incredible skills. When Kobe Bryant LED this team to those rings, he was the NBA’s ultimate scoring machine, a ferocious shut down defender with the stamina to run like deer all game long and then into three overtimes if need be and still have energy to burn. When he led us to those titles, he was the best, most effective, most efficient player on the court, for both team, on both ends of the floor, every single night for every series, every game, every minute of every game.
And now, this is just not the case. And the damage done to our chances, because this Kobe no longer exists, is perhaps the single biggest factor of why our championship run is over.
When you watch Kobe now, players he used to shut down getting past him, no longer with that energy on either side of the floor, so often, no longer using his thousands of moves to break away and create space for his jumper, but instead just standing and shooting flat footed, it brings back memories for me. Of what Kobe used to do. And of what age did to Dr. J and Michael Jordan in Washington. For those who saw age rob Dr. J and Jordan of their incandescent skills, for those who saw them when the sands of time deprived them of the energy, will and skill they had to humiliate any opponent at will and reduce them to feet of clay, shaky defense and flat footed jump shots, then you recognize the signs In Kobe this year.
And remember, Kobe Bryant, who was the spearhead of our offense in his prime, was just that because he was such a maestro, a savant at getting that ball in the basket. In putting up 20 or 45 in a very efficient manner. That was one of the many reasons we were what we were and why we went to three straight championships. But now, with 50 pounds of age weight on each leg, with lead shackles clamped on his wrists by father time, with his indefatigable, inhuman stamina sucked out by father time, Kobe is becoming a volume shooter. Not the great, effective score of yore, but a man who has to shoot, shoot, shoot to get his points. His scoring average contains an illusion of numbers that belie the subtle and harmful paradigm change in the player he was then and the one the years have made him now. And make no mistake; this Kobe Bryant is a shadow of the young one. Their skill sets, the damage they inflict to our foes are so very different, and that is perhaps the most overwhelming difference between those teams and this one.
It is very hard, I would say, impossible for a volume scorer to be effective enough to lead a team to a championship. But this is the position we now find ourselves in. And this team will have to make some very big changes. The will have to find a forward who can do something on the glass and the scoreboard besides Pau. They will have to find some younger, dead eye shooters to take advantage of open shots and threes. They will need to supplement the bench with guys who can bring it, not lose it. And yes, this team needs to make a transition on the lead scorer…..if it is serious about winning a title down the road.
This is not to open the “Whose team is this, Bynums or Kobes.” That has been done to death. Some here feel Drew can take over this team as lead scorer. Others feel he can’t. That is not my point either way. What I am saying is this: This team needs to find a new lead scorer. Kobe is only going to get older, worse, not younger and better. You want to hang onto Kobe as the main offense fulcrum of this team? Fine. I will tell you right now how may titles you can expect under his aegis: Zero. Don’t believe me? Talk to me in three years and you will.
Right now, Andrew Bynum is the only scoring alternative to Kobe as leading man. And it’s time to find out if he can take that slot. I don’t know if he can, but it’s time to find out. Because if Kobe Bryant , aging volume shooter remains this team’s leading man on offense, well, don’t expect any rings because you’re not going to get any down the road. It takes efficiency to win titles.
If Andrew Bynum can’t become a team’s offensive leader, if he is not capable, then the Lakers will stuck with the long, hard task of finding one exogenously. If what I am sounding like with all this sounds suspiciously like the word rebuild, then you are reading this exactly right.
And yes, I know so many who can’t bear the thought of the end of Kobe as we know him will come on here and talk about this game and that game and how he scored the last ten points beating this team and put in the game winner against that team and how he leads the league In scoring. And you know what? None of that has anything to do with what I am talking about. All those things are but threads in his current incarnation as old Kobe. I am talking about the whole cloth of this team and any desire to win a championship down the road. And that is the fact that it is almost impossible for an old, volume shooter to lead a team in scoring as effectively as needed to win a title.
And for those of you who think Kobe, as aging volume shooter will lead this team to more rings, I will say fire away. Fire away and fall back, because in three years, you will learn, you will know, what I already do.
And if all this sounds suspiciously like rebuilding, then you have understood everything I have said here. No team wins forever. No athlete stays young for eternity, no matter how inhuman he was in his prime. This team officially reached the end in many ways tonight. It reached the end of any realistic championship dreams, it reached the end of any competitiveness with Oklahoma, it reached the end of elite contender status, and it reached the end of Kobe Bryant, as best player on earth leading it to NBA championships. It is never a happy time to see a great team and athlete hit mortality, but for those fans who have been around, who are realistic, you know the inevitability of the occurrence.
And for those of you who don’t believe me about this team or Kobe, fine. Post away. I will talk with you in about three years, when you know then what is really very obvious now.
And so tonight it ended, in many ways, for our beloved Los Angeles Lakers. It was great ride. Three straight title appearances, two rings, including the historic blood bath against Boston. it doesn’t get much better than that. And if you want to curse someone for its ending, I would say not Jim Buss, or Mitch Kupchak, or even David Stern, for they are only human like the rest of us, I would say point your fists to the heavens and yell it out loud, a final, expletive filled curse to father time, the one foe who destroys the best of teams and greatest of players and every fans heart.