It wasn’t supposed to end like this. We were supposed to be the team talking about all the things we did right that led to victory, not the ones searching for answers and trying to appease the fans with BS excuses. We were supposed to be the team relishing the underdog role, not the team proving people right.
Laker fans have become accustomed to watching the Purple and Gold win the final game of the season, and riding off into the sunset that is the off-season on a high note. Maybe Laker fans are spoiled…so what? Maybe I use the term ‘we’ like I freestyle on the team charter with Metta…but that’s not the point. When a team wins as much as the Lakers have in recent history (And not-so-recent history), they (I’ll stop using ‘we’ and pretending that Metta and I make ‘Mike Brown is fat’ jokes together) create expectations that cannot always be met…and they don’t always have to be met for people to be satisfied. But, when a storied franchise, like the Los Angeles Lakers, whimpers into the off-season two years straight without putting up a fight (Cheap shots don’t count), significant changes have to be made.
That being said, I’m not arguing that the Lakers were the better team going into the OKC series. What I will argue is that the Lakers were the better team through four games…at least for the better part of four games.
The Lakers SHOULD have been up 3-1. They outplayed Oklahoma City for about 46 minutes in game 2, and 40+ minutes in game 4, both of which they gave away. Again, SHOULD is the important term here. SHOULD – because most teams with that level of talent, skill, and experience SHOULD be able to protect a sizable lead with the season on the line. The unfortunate thing for Laker fans was that this team…filled with all-star talent and natural ability…lacked things critical to winning a series against a great team like OKC. They (Definitely not ‘we’ at this point) lacked passion. They lacked effort. They lacked intelligence. They lacked heart. And they definitely lacked maturity. These Lakers (Including some soon-to-be ex-Lakers) really didn’t care about winning.
Think back to the last three playoff series for the Lakers…Swept by the Mavs in an embarrassing and distasteful series last season…barely squeaking by the Nuggets…THE NUGGETS…to narrowly escape disaster in the first round this season…and then outplaying the Thunder to start the second round…only to implode and give away game after game. Not the best two-year stretch for LA. The only thing that made this ugly end to the season easier to swallow for fans in LA was the surprising success of the Kings and Dodgers (Not surprising if you read my preseason MLB predictions…But MAN did I pick a good year to start following hockey…I swear the Kings are doing all of this for me!). Maybe other Laker fans are still struggling with the thought of the season being over, but I have certainly accepted it. There’s no way any team can give away TWO games against a team as good as the Thunder and still have a shot to win. They showed no life in game 5, and it was over from the get go. Where’s the remote? Sunday Night Baseball is on.
As I said earlier, I really believe that, as spoiled as Laker fans are when it comes to expecting success, most fans could have accepted a Laker defeat if it went down the right way. I think Laker fans, at least realistic Laker fans, would have been able to accept the loss if the series went seven games, and the Thunder ended up winning a nail-biter. Obviously championships are nice, but all I wanted out of this group was to show some pride and effort. 0 for 2.
So…what happens next?
I’d rather not speculate on certain players that the Lakers should target, or who they should try to sign with this mini mid-level exception, or what they should do with that trade exception. There are too many possibilities out there and I have no idea which players are being dangled or who the Lakers front office likes best at the moment. Instead, I want to address the current roster and give my opinion on who should stay and who should go…
First off, I wrote months ago that the Lakers should trade Kobe for younger talent. Clearly, I know that is not a realistic course of action, and the chances of that happening are, as my mom used to tell me, slim to none and slim’s out of town. Kobe isn’t going anywhere.
Now that Andrew Bynum looks less like a franchise player to build around and more like a 7-footer with the maturity level of an 8th grader, I say ship him out. The kid just doesn’t care. He keeps saying he’ll play anywhere…fine. Trade him to Toronto…see how much he likes playing there. On second thought, don’t. They don’t have anything to give the Lakers in return.
Pau is S-O-F-T. Mentally and Physically. Send him to Indiana. He’ll fit right in…right, Larry?
In order to save time, it would probably be easier to go over the guys I would keep…that’s a much smaller list…
Keep Kobe, Jordan Hill, Ramon Sessions, Devin Ebanks, Steve Blake, Andrew Goudelock…wow this is getting depressing. If it were up to me (Pretty sure it’s not), I would get rid of just about everyone else on the current roster. A lot of those other guys are good, but they just don’t care about winning. Metta’s on another planet, Matt Barnes just wants to be tough, and Josh McRoberts can’t score unless he literally shoves the ball in the basket. Darius Morris…he just looks dazed and confused. It doesn’t matter if he’s in the game or sitting on the end of the bench…he looks like a lost 3-year-old at Walmart.
They should keep Troy Murphy as an inspirational reminder that anyone can make it in this world if they put their mind to it.
As for Mike Brown…yeah…
Go get Stan Van Gundy. I realize the goofy little Ron Jeremy isn’t exactly Phil Jackson, but he knows basketball, he knows how to coach, and he knows how to deal with players. Stan proved that he isn’t afraid to get fired, and isn’t scared to challenge a superstar…something Mike Brown only did passive-aggressively, when he benched his star players and then said nothing about it as if it never happened. Way to go.
Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the Lakers front office have a lot of work to do and have some big decisions to make. Hopefully they can bring in some guys who care about winning…or at least act like they do.
No matter what happens, at least WE aren’t the Clippers…