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Tag:Derek Fisher
Posted on: June 22, 2011 5:27 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2011 5:29 pm
 

Doesn't sound like Fisher is all that optimistic

Posted by Royce Young

I'll admit, I got a little excited with yesterday's news out of the big blow-out meetings in New York. By all appearances, progress was being made with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and it just looked like finally, the league might be on a path to getting this thing settled before June 30.

And then Derek Fisher came along and stomped on all that happiness. Via Sports Radio Interviews:
“Well, we’re hearing there’s some reports out there that there’s been significant progress made on things that the NBA and our owners are proposing to us, but in reality, there hasn’t been much substantial movement at all on a lot of key areas. So we’re still focused on getting a deal done, we’re going to continue to negotiate, and we’re going to meet again on Friday. But even with some of the things that are being released about what has been dropped out in proposals, there isn’t any agreement on anything at this point. We’re still working hard on that right now.

“Well the best way to explain it would be that where we were a couple of months ago as far as the proposal that we were given by the NBA, which was essentially the same proposal that we received some two years ago, that hasn’t changed very much. So what has happened is the NBA has really tried to put us in a position where we’re negotiating from what we consider to be an outrageous proposal to begin with."
Yikes. The way Fisher explains it, things sound a bit more dire. And with the way Fisher explains it, you almost start to say, "Yeah, those darn owners!" Fisher is good like that.

Then he dropped a money quote, basically putting everything on the owners.
“A lockout is an owner-imposed lockout. That’s a decision that only they can make. For now, as President of the Players Association, my focus is on negotiating on the deal. That’s the part that I control over is myself, Billy [Hunter], our Executive Committee, and our player reps are focusing on negotiating the actual deal. If the owners decide they want to lock us out because we don’t agree to the most dramatic rollback in professional sports history, then that’s the choice that they have.”
Good line, Fish. If the owners decide they want to lock us out because we don’t agree to the most dramatic rollback in professional sports history, then that’s the choice that they have. That's pretty strong.

Fisher said the players have made pretty serious concessions, but still sees what David Stern called a "flex cap" system as a hard salary cap. He basically said it's not the players' fault that owners keep dishing out silly long-term contracts.

And he's right. It's not. The owners control their own checkbooks and can sign and not sign who they want. But as owners know, in order to stay competitive and actually sign players, if the current system allows five or six-year deals, someone is going to offer that. Fisher can make that point -- which is valid -- but it's not entirely realistic. Bigger market, bigger money teams are going to be more able to absorb a bad five-year contract than a smaller market team that has to put its eggs all in that basket.

Things are still very much up and down, back and forth. It's touch and go and while yesterday seemed like progress, it might not have been near as much as we thought.
Posted on: May 9, 2011 2:16 pm
 

Lakers backing gently off "blow up" talk

Mitch Kupchak says not to worry too much about Magic's "blow it up" comments. But if not a complete self-destruction, is a major remodeling on the way,and how does a new coach fit into this?
Posted by Matt Moore




Sure, you were just swept out of the playoffs in what should have been the culmination of so much work, effort, and money spent in order to achieve a three-peat and send your expensive Hall of Fame coach out in style. Sure, your roster was relatively exposed as lackadaisical, lacking in focus, determination, heart, and eventually class. And yes, the idea has always been to reload when the shots don't quite hit their target, which is always championship gold. 

But the Lakers? They're not looking to follow Magic Johnson's advice and blow it up. Not yet, anyway. And not completely. 

From Sports Illustrated: 
(Lakers GM Mitch) Kupchak cautioned against the idea that Johnson's recent comments on ABC were an early indication of things to come. The Lakers' legend had all but written his favorite team off during his television analysis, then recommended Kupchak "blow it up" by trading one of his frontcourt players for Orlando's Dwight Howard as a means to keeping the dynasty intact.

Jackson called the comment "unnecessary" before tip-off, while Kupchak largely dismissed the notion raised by some fans that it was an in-house sentiment being shared publicly. Howard is believed to be eyeing the Lakers as a possible landing spot when he becomes a free agent in 2012, however, meaning this storyline won't be going away anytime soon.

"I thought Earvin was trying to motivate our players," Kupchak said. "He's great at cheering for us, and a lot of times saying stuff like he said can motivate a player to play harder. That's how I took it.

"I talk to Earvin from time to time, and I think Dr. Buss [owner Jerry Buss] does from time to time, and this moves too quickly for him to be intimately involved in what's going on day to day, so I would hesitate to think that was the case."
via Lakers fall apart against Mavericks in Phil Jackson's farewell - Sam Amick - SI.com.

Not surprising that Magic isn't plugged into the day to day ops, especially having sold his stake, despite retaining a front office position. But the question is whether the Lakers are correct in this train of thought. One issue that isn't being talked about here is pretty obvious. This roster was constructed to play for Phil Jackson. 

And that definitely won't be the case next season. 

From ESPN:
Jackson might've played coy in what was likely his final postgame press conference, joking "I haven't answered that, have I?" when pressed for a definitive statement on whether he'd coached his final NBA game Sunday. But Kupchack says he believes Jackson's decision to retire is final this time.

"I think this is it," Kupchak told ESPNLosAngeles after the Lakers were swept out of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks 122-86 on Sunday. "We'll sit down and talk, but I've gotten no indication that he won't retire.

"We just talked briefly and I thanked him for what he's done for the organization. It was a pleasure to work with him. Everybody who is a coach in this league works endless hours. I'm not going to say he works harder than any other coach in this league. He certainly works as hard as any of them.

"But he's different. He's got a feel that I think a lot of coaches don't have."
via Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak senses Phil Jackson set to retire - ESPN Los Angeles.

With Jackson gone, Brian Shaw is the favorite to get the Lakers' head coaching job. But after the abject meltdown that occured on a chemistry level, the job will probably be open to several applicants. ESPN also reports the job is "wide open" and with candidates like Jeff Van Gundy, Rick Adelman, and Larry Brown on the market, you have to think ownership will take a long look at its options. And if there is a change in the coaching line, the new coach will want players to fit his personnel. 

The question of Dwight Howard will come back around again and again this summer once the CBA is resolved (if it's resolved). In case you missed it in the fall of Rome, here's Ken Berger of CBSSports.com on Howard and the Lakers: 
Everybody knows that Dwight Howard wants to be a Laker," said a person familiar with the All-Star centers plans. "Theyre going to lose Dwight Howard for nothing. Hes not staying there. Dwight Howard is going to be in the same mode as LeBron James."

So would the Magic, facing the reality of losing their franchise cornerstone and getting nothing in return, accept Gasol and Odom, Bynum and Odom, or even Bynum and Gasol as the centerpiece of a Howard trade?"Probably," said a high-profile agent with a hand in past maneuverings for both teams.
via Fast-approaching offseason critical for Lakers - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.

Landing Howard would automatically put the Lakers back at the top of the contenders list, though they may be there anyway, even with the Dallas Meltdown. But it comes with its own set of issues, including giving the reins of a veteran club to a younger player. How's Kobe Bryant going to react to being the No.2 for the first time since the first W. Bush term in his final ride into the sunset? Will the Magic really want Andrew Bynum after he embarrassed himself, his family, and his organization with (another) needless foul that could have resulted in injury and will definitely result in his suspension for multiple games next year, along with his injury issues on a long contract? 

There's time for all this, and the Lakers will take it. They are unlikely to "blow it up" and more likely to simply try and pick their favorite from the NBA's buffet as in year's past. But deals like the Pau Gasol trade don't come along twice in a four-year span, and with the franchise tag a possibility to come out of the CBA, life may be significantly different for L.A. after the seconds ticked off the Phil Jackson era in Dallas. 

Things aren't as simple as pushing the "self-destruct" button and starting over. Even Athens fell, and an immediate return to glory isn't always guaranteed for those blessed by the Gods for so long. 

But I wouldn't bet against them.
Posted on: May 9, 2011 1:42 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 1:48 pm
 

Pau Gasol had a bad week

Pau Gasol loses fiance, has tension with Lakers, is swept from playoffs. Other than that, things aren't bad for the 7-foot Spaniard. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Let's take a look at Pau Gasol's week: 

  • Dumped by his long-time girlfriend: check. 
  • Challenged and pushed physically by Phil Jackson, who notoriously does not get up in player's faces or ever touch them during games: check.
  • Dominated against Euro 7-footer, exposing him as an inferior to Dirk Nowitzki: check.
  • Swept from playoffs in attempt for three-peat, and failed to send arguably the greatest coach in NBA history out on a high note: check.

Yeah, that's a pretty bad week. 

Gasol was reported to be upset with Kobe Bryant over his wife's involvement in Gasol's girlfriend's decision to break up with him earlier in the week. Gasol admitted there was some tension in the locker room, but also denied Bryant's involvement. It's not really worth pursuing, since it's none of our business and it doesn't change the result. It's understandable that Gasol would be upset about something in his personal life like that, but in the biggest series of the year for the Lakers, they needed their big man, and he wasn't there. It's a rough patch of luck, but you have to fight through it if you want to be a champion, as cliche as that sounds. 

Perhaps more important, though, is this point. Regardless of what was going on with Gasol, he still could have dominated had the Mavericks not played him so well. They sent effective doubles, brought help when he got to the corner, challenged his turnarounds enough to drive him too deep baseline, and stayed aggressive on the defensive boards to not allow those tip-ins.  Pau Gasol has a terrible week, one that has changed Laker fans' perception of him despite his pivotal role in the Lakers' two championships, but it should be noted that it was a two way street. Gasol fell apart when the Lakers needed him most, and the Mavericks did what they had to in order to take away the Lakers' second best player. 

If the last few weeks have been interesting for Gasol, the next few months could be even moreso. 
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:44 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 9:49 pm
 

Kobe Bryant predicts series win over Mavericks

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant says he thinks Los Angeles can come back from a 3-0 series deficit to the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-fail

The Los Angeles Lakers' season could end as soon as Sunday night. Down 3-0 to the Dallas Mavericks with Game 4 in American Airlines Center, the Lakers will look to keep hople alive their season after three straight games featuring fourth quarter meltdowns. There has been plenty of blame to go around, 

While no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, ESPNLA.com reports that Bryant not only still has hope, he's predicting a series victory.
"I don't know, I might be sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or something like that because I still think we're going to win this series," Bryant said after totaling 17 points and six assists in Game 3. "I might be nuts. ... Let's win on Sunday, go back home and see if they can win in L.A."
We shouldn't expect less from Bryant, one of the league's most confident and decorated players. He isn't going to fold in the face of adversity, at least not publicly. With Games 4 and 6 still to be played in Dallas, however, L.A. faces an extremely tall order. It's better to go down with your head up, I suppose.

What happens in the very likely event that the Lakers aren't able to make good on Bryant's prediction? Ken Berger of CBSSports.com explores that subject, saying that trades, possibly including some big names, are likely in L.A.'s future.

The New York Times notes that Lakers legend Magic Johnson agrees with that assessment.
“If the Lakers lose this game, you’re going to have to blow it up,” Magic Johnson, the former Lakers great, said on ESPN. “This team has been together too long. It’s time for major changes for the Lakers.”
Posted on: May 7, 2011 1:33 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 2:54 pm
 

Gasol says he needs to 'snap out of it'

Posted by Royce Young



It was obvious to Phil Jackson early on. I've seen Phil get animated, but during a break in the first half last night against the Mavericks, Jackson went right after Pau Gasol, even giving him a little bump in the chest with his fist. Later, Jackson zeroed in on Gasol again, giving him what some would call, a "butt-chewing."

Gasol got the message. His play didn't necessarily reflect it, but he says he got the message, according to Yahoo! Sports:

He’s “out of it” mentally and hasn’t been able to be “effective or comfortable out there,” but couldn’t explain why and says he needs to “snap out of it.” Time is running out….

“It’s been tough,” Gasol simply said. “It’s been tough more than anything [because] of the losses.”

When asked if this poor playoff season ruins his previous Laker accomplishments, Gasol sternly responded: “You tell me? Should it? I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

That's not good news for a team down 0-3. Also not good because Andrew Bynum was vocal after Game 2 about "trust issues." The Lakers are clearly having problems right now and most will point directly at Gasol. He's a player as responsible for their back-to-back titles as anyone, but within the triangle offense, it's almost as Pau goes, the Lakers go.

In this series, he's averaging just 13 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting. For the playoffs, the numbers are virtually the same. Against the Hornets, Gasol was a disappointment, but L.A. advanced because, well, they were playing Chris Paul and four dudes that stumbled in from Mardi Gras.

But against the Mavericks, it's another story. Not only is Gasol not contributing to the Laker offense, Dirk Nowitzki is torching him. According to ESPN State and Info, 27 of Dirk's 32 came with Gasol "on" him. (I put "on" in quotes because there were a few times where Gasol was decidedly not on him.) For the series, Nowitzki is shooting 19-25 from the floor for 42 points when Gasol checks him. That's ridiculous on Dirk's behalf and inexcusable on Gasol's.

Gasol's shimmering reputation as one of the most gifted big men in the league is taking a serious tarnishing right now. He's the focus of a lot of negativity. Andrew Bynum was visibly keyed in and aggressive all night. Gasol gave away an easy Jason Terry dunk at one point because he was barely holding on to the ball. Jackson claimed that was the play he first singled Gasol out on, but it's much more than that.

It speaks to the respect we all have for Jackson, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers that we haven't completely ruled them out from being the first team ever to come back from 0-3. (Or maybe that speaks to the Mavs. I don't know.) They aren't out of it until the buzzer sounds and Dallas has more points than them in a clinching fourth win. But if they have any dreams of getting there, any dreams of winning a third consecutive title, Gasol must absolutely snap out of it.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 2:38 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 5:40 am
 

NBA Playoffs Mavs-Lakers: The Panic Button

The Lakers have never had a reason to panic, until now. 
Posted by Matt Moore




There's never a good time to panic. It does you no good to freak out, and the only way to solve a problem that would call for such behavior is to behave in the exact opposite manner; with poise and control.  And for a championship team like the Lakers, there's no such thing as a panic button. They've been victorious too often, overcome too many challenges, risen up and simply been better in too many series. They don't know what the panic button looks like. 

But maybe they should after Game 3's stunning loss to the Mavericks, to go down 0-3. Maybe then they'd have some level of urgency in their play, some level of commitment to closing games. The Lakers we're witnessing are in many ways the ultimate embodiment of the team we've seen for years in L.A. . They assume they'll be better simply by having the talent. Victory is assured once they step on the floor, even if Ron Artest doesn't step on said floor. Instead, they've found themselves on the brink, as Dallas has surged ahead in every fourth quarter of this series. And what does Kobe Bryant say after the game?

“I might be sick in the head … because I still think we’re going to win the series,” Bryant said. “I might be nuts.”

Bryant said he wasn't discouraged after the game. In the same calm, cool, collected manner, he exuded confidence bordering on arrogance, even after he started 5-5... and finished 3-11, with a key turnover late that may or may not have been Pau Gasol's fault. Bryant's not concerned because when he's had the manpower, he's never failed. 2005-2007? He could blame the roster. Not this one. This one is on the mindset, and that reflects its leader. So why is Bryant so calm, cool, and collected?
Because he can be. Because if any team can come back from an 0-3 deficit for the first time in league history, it's the Lakers, and if any team could cough it up, it's the Mavericks. It seems absurd that it has come to this, but it here we are. Bryant remains indignant to the idea that the Lakers should be concerned. After Game 2, Bryant told reporters that everyone was "trippin'" because they acted like no one had ever won two games before. In reality, they were talking about winning two games on the road after blowing your first two at home. Bryant never wavered from the script after Game 3, talking about mental mistakes like this was a game against Minnesota in February. There's maintaining your composure, and there's refusing to acknowledge your situation. 

There was discussion that the Lakers played "desperate" in Game 3, but we saw the same lazy rotations, the same deviation from effective strategy, the same failure to secure key plays. They are who they've been: a team with extremely talented players with superior physical attributes that doesn't respond when challenged. In years past, the Lakers would respond right when they had to in order to avoid hitting the panic button. 

Panicking won't help the Lakers win Game 4, or four straight, which is what they must do. But coming to terms with their situation may be the only way for the Lakers to really see where they've landed. There's a time for patience, confidence and even arrogance. 

That time has come and gone. If the Lakers can win this series, it will be the ultimate validator of their overconfidence. If they cannot, it will be the final verdict on a core that won two titles and yet infuriated its fans and too often played with the flame. 

Eventually you get burned. 
Posted on: May 5, 2011 6:33 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2011 10:13 am
 

The Lakers, the Celtics, and a question of change

Are we seeing a changing of the guard? We discuss whether the conference champs of a year ago have seen the present pass them by, and reach a strange conclusion. The body is willing. The hunger? That we're not sure about. 
Posted by Matt Moore



Few saw this coming. Sure, you could have said the Celtics didn't look like themselves after the Perkins trade, or that L.A.'s penchant for blasé, uninspired play would eventually bite them on the back end. But to think both conference champions from a year ago would face not just must-wins, but "No, for real, lose this game and you might as well forfeit Game 4 and start enjoying your lockout" games in the semifinals? That's just preposterous. How could that happen? The Celtics took three straight from the Heat this season. The Lakers are two-time defending champions. 

And yet, here we are. So the question we ask now, in advance, is whether we're witnessing a changing of the guard, a one-year slip for two teams formed in the iron of the industry, or the setting of the stage for the two most successful and blessed franchises in professional basketball to once again take the shovel from those would bury them and brain them with it.

More on the Lakers and Celtics
Analysis
Royce Young Royce Young
History isn't on the side of the Lakers right now. Read More >>
Ben Golliver Ben Golliver
The Dallas bench came up big in Game 2's Mavs win. Read More >>
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Message Boards: Mavericks | Lakers
There's ample evidence to support all three theories. But why waste time with it? Why not just wait to see how Games 3 and 4 go? We're not just providing filler or overreaction to add volume to headlines, I assure you. It's that if this is the end, we need to acknowledge it while it's happening so we're not left in stunned silence, shellshocked by the absence of the teams most lauded over the past three years. If it's a slip, we need to examine why, and if any changes need to be or can be made going forward. And if they're setting us up for the rope-a-dope, well, we should take note of that as well.  If we want to watch these playoffs, we should try and suss out what's happening. After all, the first round left us struggling for comprehension as the top seed fell in one conference and struggled with a playoff bottom feeder in the other. So let's begin with the defending champs. 

Lakers

Most concerning for L.A.? The fact that both losses were not the same. Their deviation from success and development of bad habits in the pattern of failure are indicative of a team that not only is struggling, but is failing to recognize that. 

Game 1: The "we let it slip through our fingers" game. This obviously was the less damaging of the two. A few plays here or there and the Lakers win. Make more than a couple and it's a comfortable win. Surrendering the game in the manner they did, however, was about as "un-Laker-like" as you're going to get. They didn't close out the game. They didn't finish with poise. They did collapse, and the Mavericks did take it from them. This game actually looks worse in the aftermath of Game 2. They not only gave the Mavericks confidence, but it was the kind of loss that allowed the Lakers to pass it off as nothing to worry about.  That laziness was fine in previous years. The Lakers were younger, the competition not as fierce, and the matchups were avoided. They needed to respond after Game 1 with a ferocity befitting of a team of their talent, their payroll, their legacy. Instead they simply came into the game with the same lack of urgency they went into so many regular season games and even playoff games in previous years (the Rockets, the Nuggets, the Suns). Only this time, it turns out the other team not only wanted it more... they were just better. 

Game 2: The "well, they just kicked our face in" game. That's a 12 point loss, kids. At home. And in reality, it could have been worlds worse.  The Mavericks only shot 42 percent from the field. You can argue that the Lakers defense was what kept that number low, except that same defense allowed a 106.9 defensive efficiency. That's not great. But it's not terrible, and had a few more shots fallen, you had a much more significant loss. The Mavericks played with urgency, with fire, with a killer instinct. You know, everything you associate with championship play. The Lakers on the other hand felt that they had no reason to execute with purpose. A few passes, a few dunks, and the Mavericks would fold. In many ways, it was a reflection of the crowd, which was first discontent, then frustrated, then downright glum. There's no shock, just petulance at the fact the Mavericks not only didn't roll over, but took it to the Laker's front door, then kicked in the frame. 

The post-game comments from Game 2 give us an insight into where the Lakers' heads are at. Andrew Bynum says there are trust issues. Phil Jackson is concerned. But Kobe Bryant? Kobe Bryant is calm as Hindu cows. It's an interesting reaction from the one player who most often calls out his teammates. Either this is the confidence that breeds his indomitable will, or it's an arrogance that is keeping him out of the reality. And the reality is that the Lakers face a challenge only three teams in history have ever overcome. 

So which is it? Are the Lakers done? Clearly not. Pau Gasol didn't age overnight to the point he's no longer useful. Kobe Bryant's largely the same guy he's been this season. Older, less explosive, occasionally brilliant, occasionally way too confident in his abilities. Derek Fisher's not any worse than he ever has been. Lamar Odom's reverting back to his space cadet persona, but you had to expect that at some point. The bench, though? The bench certainly seems to have wandered by a mirror and remembered, "Oh, yeah, I'm Steve Blake/Matt Barnes/Shannon Brown and not Robert Horry/Brian Shaw/Rick Fox." And those aren't great names to start with. But you can't look at this team the way we saw the Spurs fall because the Spurs tried to tell us all season they were not the defensive stalwarts they've been in the past. The Lakers have been the same team that won the title, just lazier than usual. 

So is Bryant right, and this is just a blip, nothing to worry about? No. The Lakers didn't lose these games because of fluke shots.  L.A. faced their own mortality and their response was to throw up 3-pointer after 3-pointer when they couldn't hit water from the sunken remains of the Titanic, instead of giving it to Andrew Bynum, who was actually playing well. The Lakers were lazy, that's certainly true. But the big key here is so much simpler, and so much more frightening. 

The Mavericks outplayed them. Just as we learned Memphis was simply a better team than San Antonio this year, the Mavericks have showed the same pattern in the first two games. That can just as easily be reversed with a flourish from the Lakers. But we can't simply walk past these two games, confident Los Angeles will right the ship. 

The good ship Mamba is not sunk. But it's taking on water, while the Lakers are arguing over silverware and Kobe Bryant is playing the violin. 

Celtics

If the Lakers' big problem is that their opponent is playing better, the Celtics are facing an uncomfortable reality: the Heat really are better. Don't misunderstand, this isn't to say that the Heat will win. But the facts that we thought would be present in preseason that escaped us the whole year through have returned in stunning clarity. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh play for one team. And that's just a ridiculous amount of talent. If the Celtics are going to win, they have to win with strategy, effort, and guile. Because the first two games have exposed a significant gap between the maximum gears both teams can operate on. Lakers fans can cling to a lack of effort and a series of bad games. But the Celtics don't seem to be playing badly or with poor effort. They're just getting beaten to the spot, beaten to the ball, and dunked over. Role players are wilting while James Jones hits from the outside, and Ray Allen's not getting the ball. 

There's age here. The Celtics knew this coming in. When the Big 3 were constructed, they knew the window was tight. The formation of the Heat, the formation of the Lakers' modern core, the rise of the Bulls all narrowed the window further, but the reality was always in the back of their minds. You can't compete into your late 30's in the face of the greatest rise of talent in the league, constantly teaming up with one another. You can, as long as you don't disrupt your chemistry. Which of course they did. 

The is not on the Perkins trade. But the advantages the Perkins team held in terms of chemistry, efficiency, comfort and continuity were questioned. And somewhere in the back of their minds, the players are aware: the front office decided to make a move in regards to a time when they were no longer in green. That has to shake your confidence, even if slightly. The Celtics still seem physically capable of making adjustments, playing at the level they need to, winning the games. But the overpowering swagger is gone, and the ferocity of play hasn't been there. They have given the vibe of exhaustion, of frustration, and of a restrained fear, which we've never seen before. 

The Celtics can respond. They haven't surrendered home floor. And the common theme in the NBA throughout the decade, throughout its history, has been that you can't count out the established teams until they're dead and buried. We could be looking at this column as one of premature exasperation or naivety in a week. But the signs are there. 

The Lakers and Celtics have been confident, and elite for the past three seasons. But now they both face a blood-draining possibility. The talent may be there. The experience may be strong. The execution may be possible. But the hunger? 

More and more it looks like the hunger lies in the ones across the floor.

Posted on: May 5, 2011 2:38 am
 

NBA Playoffs Mavs-Lakers: Lakers coming apart

Lakers begin tearing at each other, down 2-0 to Dallas. But can they respond?
Posted by Matt Moore




After the Lakers' 93-81 loss to the Mavericks, going down 2-0, Andrew Bynum said that the Lakers have "trust issues."  Magic Johnson, a member of the Lakers' front office, the biggest Lakers booster you'll find, is talking about chances being slim and the Lakers pointing fingers. Kobe Bryant was the voice of reason post-game, talking about how the trust issues are on defensive communication, and how everyone is "tripping" when they just need to go win a game. 

But there is trouble in the land of the champs. And the fact remains that the Lakers are no longer trying to avoid the edge of the cliffs. They're hearing the gravel bounce off the canyon walls below.  This is not something the Lakers are used to, even with a history of malaise and unimpressive performances relative to their capability. 

The Lakers have gone to seven with a Rockets team without Yao, six with a Thunder team with no experience, and had long series with the Nuggets and Suns. But 0-2, dropping both games in Staples, headed back to an amped up Dallas arena is a whole other hole to climb out of. 

The "trust issues' comment is interesting. Chemistry is a huge part of championship teams. But the Lakers have never seemed to have great chemistry. Kobe trusts Gasol only as far as Gasol's success takes him.  Lamar Odom is constantly in need of coddling and his reality show furthers the perception he's not plugged in. Andrew Bynum's injury issues for such a young player puts him aside. Against the Mavericks, the Lakers haven't shown any committment to strategy. They just rolled up on both ends and expected their talent and experience to come through. It didn't, and now the Lakers have to win four out of the next five games.  The Lakers notoriously coast through parts of the season, and now it's bitten themin a big way. 

But to say that these issues are all just the Lakers coming apart is to ignore how the Mavericks have attacked them.  The Mavericks beefed up their roster in the place the Lakers feel safest at, size down low. Brendan Haywood became a backup center. Tyson Chandler became the starter, and the combination meant Dirk Nowitzki could just focus on being the most versatile seven-foot power forward in the league. Against the Lakers, Nowitzki is hitting all of his usual ridiculous shots, attacking the rim, and doing a decent job defending Pau Gasol, who has shrunk from the moment like never before. The Mavericks' use of Shawn Marion was supposed to be an after thought, but Marion's length has allowed him to stick with Bryant as Kobe's athleticism and explosivness degrade with age. Jason Kidd is Derek Fisher's superior, and the Mavericks have shooters upon shooters on the perimeter. 

Now the Lakers are really a wounded animal, and have to figure out how to best a team that is playing with more confidence than any opponent they've faced. 

What have we seen from this Lakers core in the past as we look ahead to Games 3 and 4 in Dallas? The Lakers usually respond only when they absolutely have to. You could argue that they didn't have to yet, that they can even drop another game in Dallas before executing a backdoor sweep. But that would mean that Kobe Bryant's assertions are correct, that the Lakers don't have to adjust to Dallas, they just have to play better. The Lakers aren't struggling through like the Bulls, who seem like a better team playing down to their oppponent. The Lakers are losing to what looks like a better team in every phase of the game. And unless they come up with a considerable flip switch, they're going to ruin the storybook ending for Phil Jackson and the second Lakers' threepeat. It sounds impossible, but Dallas has set the level the Lakers have to respond to. 

So far, they've done nothing but burst under the pressure. 
 
 
 
 
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