What is wrong with the Lakers? Well, to be honest, there's a lot of people who are talking about it, and this is my take on the problem. It starts with our bigs and ends with our legendary coach. Check after the break to read the rest:
1) Pau and Andrew.
Simply put, our starting two are just not living up to their expectations. First, Pau is simply not being Pau. He looks tired or weak, and when he plays offense, I cringe. Before, him with the ball is all I ever wanted. Now, I just want him to get rid of the ball as soon as he can. When you look at his eyes, you see he's trying to pass the ball instead of playing one-on-one. When he does play one-on-one, he looks as if he's going to lose the ball at any moment. His arms can't even dribble the ball without messing up, and his shot looks off. When his shot is off, he's absolutely powerless on the court. Pau is the guy the Lakers depend on for the bench and the starters, and when he can't do what he normally does, we're already beginning to play 4 on 5. And Pau's defense is almost as atrocious as his offense right now. Unless he finds his shot again, Pau is the first in my head who I would want to trade.
Andrew Bynum has some room to make mistakes, and he has been improving over the days. However, when he plays a center who actually tries like DeJuan Blair, Shaq, Perkins, Howard, Noah, and so on, he seems to disappear. Whether he really doesn't have the pop remains to be seen, but Bynum's rebounds are key to the Lakers, enough that our coach emphasizes it during timeouts.
Until both become the deadly weapons we Laker fans know they can be, the Lakers starting lineup is already facing a huge hole.
2) Point Guards
Derek Fisher and Steve Blake are not the answers to our point guard problems. In a league dominated with young point guards, the Lakers are just behind the learning curve. Even if the point guard position is not necessary for the triangle, it is integral for the defense the Lakers run. Strong side traps will only work if the Lakers have a quick enough player opposite Kobe who can begin a double team on the point guard, and then immediately close out on the weak side three point shooter. Too many times has this killed the Lakers, and without this defensive manuever, the Heat will have their way against LA.
3) Coaching tactics
One thing I noticed about the Lakers lineup during the critical stretch against the Celtics when the Lakers were down 5 with a few minutes to go: Fisher, Blake, Bryant, Gasol, Bynum. Please. Any one with even a hint of basketball knowledge will know what is wrong with that lineup. Two slow point guards, one ineffective big, one semi-injured big, and Kobe. If I was Phil Jackson, I would go with Brown, Kobe, Artest (even in foul trouble), Odom, Gasol/Bynum. That gives us two more cutters, one player who could light it up, and a big, along with the red-hot Kobe. Had it been Odom instead of Gasol or Bynum, the Lakers would have lost by 5, had they even lost at all. That Fisher, Blake, Kobe, Pau, Bynum lineup just cannot happen in critical stretches in the fourth quarter.
4) Team energy
Kobe and Lamar aside, NOBODY is playing with enthusiasm. It doesn't matter if this is just game 47 of 82, had this been the Lakers of 2-3 years ago, the Lakers would've come with a killer instinct to beat down the Celtics. Yesterday, the Lakers only had their best stretch in the second quarter, and it was all Celtics after that. It was a similar story with Miami. The Spurs beat us in a similar fashion. The Lakers just lack a killer instinct, which is why we've lost 6 more games than our first ring's campaign. Personally, I don't want the Lakers to repeat what the Celtics did last season, because we all know how it ended for them. Blowing a 13 point lead only to lose in the final quarter of a Game 7. After they "turned it on" in the playoffs. The Lakers have to play some games with energy, at least to show people they have the energy to play big time games. This Thursday against the Spurs will be their first chance to prove they aren't pretenders.
Another unmentioned thing is that with the energy, the Lakers will begin to play defense, which will lead to a bounce in their steps with their offense. Everything begins with the Lakers' energy. Without it, we're watching paint dry on a wall, without the paint drying.
I know most people will mention things like Artest being un-Artest like, but those are just things that will play itself out when everything above starts to come together. The bigs, the point guards, lineups, and energy. Those are all things the Lakers can fix, but it all comes down to who wants to play. The Lakers can't expect to play a "Game 7" every night the way Lamar said they needed to. There's only a possible of four game sevens a year. And at the rate the Lakers are playing right now, we'll be blessed to see them force one in the first round.