Lakers' Season Is Over, But Hard Questions Come Now

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 18: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers sits on the bench during pregame introductions for the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May at Staples Center on May 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 99-96. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

In the wake of the Lakers' second round ouster by the Oklahoma City Thunder, questions come: Where do the Lakers go from here? Are they too old? Can they improve their roster? How much will it cost them to do so? Is Kobe done? Who stays and who goes? So many questions, and right now there are no answers.

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak will surely be hard at work this off-season trying to make sure the team comes back in 2012-2013 ready to contend for a championship, or as ready as a team over the salary cap and deep into the luxury tax can be. But some people don't think that's going to be enough. They think Kobe is done winning championships, that his window, and that of the Lakers, has closed. Kobe disagrees.

"I’m not fading into the shadows, if that is what you’re asking," he interrupted when the inevitable subject of the changing of guard was broached. "I’m not going anywhere. We’re not going anywhere. This is not one of those things where the Bulls beat the Pistons and the Pistons disappear forever. I’m not going for that (expletive)."

Until I see evidence to the contrary, I'll go along with Kobe Bean and say the Lakers will be back stronger next season.

In other news, exit interviews began on Tuesday with Metta World Peace (who jokingly called coach Mike Brown a "fat ass"), Ramon Sessions (he really wants to stay with the Lakers), Jordan Hill (also really wants to stay with the Lakers), Devin Ebanks (he wants more playing time), and Troy Murphy (he will be weighing his free agency options). Today's interviews will include Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes. Kobe, who opted not to participate in an exit interview, will have a private lunch with Mitch later this week. Stay tuned.

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