With the Oklahoma CIty Thunder’s closeout victory over the Lakers Monday night critics, fans, and scouts are saying that this series signified the “passing of the torch” from perennial title contender to a new up and comer. But I don’t believe that’s entirely true. Yes the Thunder are new title contenders but the Lakers still have plenty of talent left to make a couple of title runs. But in order for the Lakers to stay competitive and make it back to the basketball promise land they need to address these questions. .
1. Is Los Angles Lakers still Kobe’s team?
At first glance this seems like a stupid question, but it’s a question that needs to be answered for the Lakers to move forward. At 33 years old, Kobe Bryant isn’t as dominant as he once was but he is still damn good basketball player– even still one of the best players on the planet. Bryant can still go on amazing scoring binges which is evident by his 30 points per game average in the playoffs. Unfortunately Kobe isn’t getting to 30 points efficiently especially during the Thunder series. During the series, Kobe averaged 31 points on 26 shot attempts and 43 percent shooting from the field. Indeed Kobe is still a tremendous players but he’s shoots way too often and his shooting can either shoot the Lakers into games or out of them–lately its been the latter.
After losing to the Thunder (4-1) it is clear that Kobe Bryant’s shot selection needs to be evaluated. The Lakers need to have him shoot less and facilitate more to get more contribution from his teammates. The Lakers have two All-Stars in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum but during the Thunder series they only averaged 11 and 14 shot attempts respectively. Kobe is still currently their best player on this Lakers team but he needs to pick his spots. It’s clear that Kobe can get getting going at any point during a game unlike Gasol and Bynum so why not Lakers go to their big men early and often and have Kobe let the game come to him? Since Kobe needs to shoot less, the Laker bigs need to be more assertive and establish themselves earlier in games. This keeps them in the flow of the offense and have them getting the Lakers easier and more efficient shots.
2. Should the Lakers go back to the triangle offense?
The triangle offense will always be synonymous with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson because he used it to perfection and he has 11 rings to back up his philosophy. This Laker team is built for this offense so why did they scrap it this year? It could have been because of the shortened training camp. Or it was out of respect to Phil Jackson, which is fine but this team desperately needs the offense again to keep Kobe under control and get usage out of Gasol and Bynum. The triangle offense provides the floor spacing and scoring options for everyone on the floor which provides stability on consistency throughout a game. During the Phil Jackson days Kobe would have gotten an ear full for all his “Hero Ball” moments during the regular season and the playoffs. The triangle offense beat the Thunder the last time they met in the playoffs and it has a great chance of beating them again if it’s established again.
3. Who should replace Mike Brown as head coach?
Who cares if Mike Brown has only been the Lakers’ coach for 66 game season. I’ve seen enough to know that Mike Brown isn’t the coach for this Lakers team. Mike Brown is a fine coach but he doesn’t know how to coach a mega superstar like Lebron and Kobe because he doesn’t know how to say no to them. Just like in Cleveland, Kobe had the green light to do whatever he wanted this season. Mike Brown never made the proper adjustments during the Thunder series and it cost them the series. I blame Kobe’s hero ball for their loss to Thunder and Brown equally responsible for allowing him to do this. The Lakers needs a coach that is either familiar with Kobe or a coach that has no problem challenging his competitive ego.
The best options for them would be Nate McMillan and Brian Shaw. The former is a hard nose defensive minded coach that demands respect from his players and the latter is a student of Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. The Lakers brass can’t go wrong with either options because their very familiar with Kobe Bryant with McMillan coaching him with Team USA and Shaw spending the last couple of years as part of Phil Jackson’s staff.
As a result, the Lakers can still make it back to NBA Finals despite their meltdown this year. They have way too much talent not to. The Lakers should take a play out of the San Antonio Spurs’ playbook and reinvent themselves. The Spurs were a franchise that prided themselves on their defense and they still do but now they have shifted to a more high octane offense to match up better with teams since their defense because of the growing age of their “Big Three” can’t get any better. The Lakers need to go back to the triangle and have it feature Bynum and Gasol more for them to match up with teams now. After this Thunder series, it’s obvious that Kobe’s late game heroics is starting to do more harm than good.
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