Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lakers Need to Revamp, After Embarrassing Downfall

Together, they were soft, feeble and spongy, whether it was overconfidence or tiredness, ignoring Andrew Bynum's insightful remarks on the lack of chemistry, cohesiveness and trust after Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. What's so easy to forget, when blinded by the invincibility as if the Los Angeles Lakers weren't vulnerable for attack and couldn't collapse in the postseason, a season featuring much unpredictability and astonishing events, is that the Lakers were on decline and requires an extreme makeover.

It's vital to the Lakers' stagnant personality that the front office handles the offseason with urgency and revamps the roster for the betterment of the future, within a franchise built with mystique and megastars. What did Kobe Bryant think of the fatality, an embarrassing demolition, which clinched the series for the Dallas Mavericks and ended the triumph for the Lakers to remind the Los Angeles' folks of the latest demise pulverizing a storied franchise?

It marked the first time in quite a while, wearing a towel with a depressing gaze on his face not having his usual intimidating facial features, that Bryant walked out of the shower dazed and frustrated, stepped onto the podium in the conference room somberly and walked off in tremendous shock. He was stronger and matured in a way, loaded with five championship rings in an era the Lakers preserved triumphant feats. While before the press, addressing a swarm of reporters sitting cramped in the room, he did not whine about the loss and acknowledged the winners, discussing the lack of dominance and effort to crowd and disrupt the Mavs.

Either Dallas was too much to disrupt or either the Lakers were too apathetic, lethargic and doltish. Seems it's clearly hard to intrude the minds of the erratic Lakers, a perplexing riddle in the NBA as the majority try to figure out what happened with the defending champs, collapsing in the postseason by not fighting efficiently or playing as a composed unit. So what's the problem for a team that cannot defy the odds of defending its title when the team isn't fierce or intimidating for the opposing opponent?

Nobody is afraid of the two-time defending champs with the intangibles to match the Lakers' firepower, durability and strength, unevenly outplaying and bullying Team Hollywood. But for some reason, probably because the Lakers were too pompous and comfortable as L.A. continued to reign as the most prominent franchise in the NBA, the well-respected basketball team in Los Angeles wasn't focused and failed to fiercely battle and allowed the Mavs to slaughter them. The face of the Lakers, for the rare defeat that sent a wakeup call to the Busses, is anything but flawless and hopeful. It would be convenient for the Lakers to clean house and seek a rebuilding plan to rebuild by surrounding Bryant with youth and athleticism.

This offseason, the Busses need to bring in explosive guards and a physique seven-foot center. So now, the Lakers should have Orlando's potent seven-footer Dwight Howard in mind and target Superman, given his maximized skills and capacity to rule the paint with his tallness that creates a sublime post presence. That's all the more reason the Lakers must consider proposing a trade offer, a package deal sending Pau Gasol aka Paula Gasoft and Ron Artest to Orlando for Howard and Jason Richardson.

It's not such a bad suggestion, but a shrewd conception for a franchise in desperate need of a severe transition to inevitably bypass the torture of staggering postseason debacles that produces horror with all the misgivings. No matter what, in retrospect, the NBA is a business and it is cruel at times, compelling a legion of teams to listen to trade offers and reach a consensus for a player that blends in with the rest of the players and its depleted roster. And so it should come as no surprise that the Lakers could send Steve Blake, Derek Fisher, Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown and Artest packing.

For that matter, any player other than Kobe, the centerpiece in the Lakers future. Meanwhile, for the most accomplished coach all-time, Phil Jackson can drift into the sunset on strong terms, despite a heartbreaking exit in the semifinals of the weirdest postseason seen in a long time. In his glamorous coaching career, he migrated from New York where he was a hippie in the 70s and played ball, then fled to the Windy City in Chicago where he was fortunate in mentoring arguably the greatest player all-time Michael Jordan and then left for the beaches in Southern California to guide Kobe and the Lakers to five NBA titles.

The perfect ending for a historic legacy would be this summer after he earned his 11th title last June when the Lakers won back-to-back titles in his spectacular career, cemented by Los Angeles' wonderful journey before the era approached a rare closure. In his tenure, he established a legacy in L.A. and had been the proudest symbol of modern coaches in pro sports best known for teaching the fundamentals of basketball with his psychological mind games, which had a strong impact on the Lakers in recent memory. This was, above all, a surprising series for the Lakers, a series of devastation and it showed signs of deterioration for the dysfunctional two-time defending champs.

If nothing else, given the painful relapses in the horrifying series against the Mavs, the Lakers three-peat and Kobe's pursuit of his sixth title were endangered by Game 2 of the horrid series. By the time it was over, for the 65-year-old coach who is the most decorated legend in NBA history, he walked off the court with a widened smile, acknowledging and congratulating his antagonist while accepting praise by others, ready to call it a career and decided to depart with the most successful odyssey by any NBA coach in history.

As for the amazing pursuit of procuring his sixth title to tie Jordan in championships, Bryant gave all his effort but the Lakers dwindled in an embarrassing sweep and disintegrated under the burden of enormous disgrace and surrendered to the Mavs. It's one thing to respond with no energy or bitterness down 3-0 in a series. It's another when the team refuses to attack, recover and stay alive in the best-of-seven series with faith that a historic comeback is probable. The absolute laziness and unwillingness to defend the value of a title, not avoiding the sweep by the Mavs to reduce the humiliation and derision over the next couple of weeks, creates a publicity disaster for the Lakers. And in the upcoming weeks, L.A. will be bashed for such paltry responses against the hungrier and mightier Mavs.

Aside from it all, the next coach in line?

Well, if you prefer to keep Bryant content and want creativity and resiliency, then Brian Shaw, a favorable candidate to fill in the vacancy when Jackson announces his retirement and forges his signature on the documents, is the man worth hiring for the job. It was pitiful and entirely dispirited the way the Lakers played, revealing signs of oldness and fatigue in their sudden demise.

Mortals, anyone?

The Lakers can use a roster upgrade, revamping not only the starters but the bench players as well. When the Lakers are devoid of respect and a championship, when Team Hollywood is subjected to destruction and stands on the brink of elimination, the specifics normally are that the Lakers consists of an old and attenuated roster. Now that the generation has ended for the Lakers and unleashed ignominy, with rants from people on what future plans L.A. might want to consider down the road, it's imperative they retool before returning to prominence.

And after observing the Lakers lose in the semifinals to the Mavs, unable to survive the series by keeping it alive, the priority for Los Angeles should be remodeling the whole roster and surrounding Bryant with younger and explosive talent. The vanity of heart and guts destroyed the Lakers faith when L.A. erroneously blew a 16-point lead in Game 1, the one contest in the series that dictated the momentum and shifted the sense of belief. From there, the Mavs hijacked each game of the stunning series.

If the Lakers fail to renovate in the offseason, primarily because the Buss family is too stubborn-minded or too egomaniacal in spending massively on a megastar, then it won't ever be resolved and they'll continue to behave like punks and utterly be blown out in an uncompetitive match up. As long as the Lakers lineup is old and motionless -- almost ineffective in protecting sharpshooters from beyond the arc -- they'll have trouble defending the pick-and-roll or setting up to run the triangle efficiently.

In other words, the Lakers will never, ever be a sufficient defensive-minded unit, particularly with old, soft and slow depth in the lineup. Near the ending, and near the beginning of an annihilation, aging heavyweights lost composure and self-esteem by their body language in the final quarter. When it all ended, putting aside the debate of a potential repeat in June, it was grisly as the Lakers had poor sportsmanlike conduct with their bad actions on the court.

The nightmarish episodes were frustrating and despicable for the Lakers to bear, as the team was awfully routed in a demoralizing 122-86 loss. That led to the wretched behavior, when Lamar Odom stupidly sent Dirk Nowitzki to the floor on his cheap shot and later was ejected. Then, moments later, there was Andrew Bynum delivering a hard blow to Dallas' J.J. Barea.

It was outrageous and uncalled for.

At the very top level is Jackson, for a coach who achieved a legion of greatness. This is a permanent exit, realizing he has accomplished enough to leave wearing a smile, evidently calm and proud, even if he has fallen short of his fourth three-peat. Years from now the Lakers will reflect on the final game in their powerful regime and recall Jackson's unparalleled coaching achievements. It turned ugly rapidly and midway in the second quarter, the Lakers trailed by 18 and they were very incompetent, enough to force Jackson in calling two full timeouts. At that point the Lakers were done when Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic fired three-point shots and dismantled the defense, which made a baffled Barnes' afternoon miserable and exhausted a drained Fisher.

What is shockingly mind-blowing is that the Lakers abandoned their throne, succumbing to the Mavs, who were successful in dethroning the Lakers and sending an influential statement.

"I don't think we played bad to start the game," Jackson said. "But in that second quarter, the roof fell in on us."

No, the Lakers played horribly and were outscored a staggering 36-16 in the second quarter. Not once did they seem hungry or feisty in challenging and battling with the Mavs to keep their championship dreams alive. It kind of brought back the dreadful memories where the Lakers dropped Game 6 in the 2008 NBA Finals by 39 points to Boston for vividly the most humiliating letdown in franchise history. And now a 36-point margin of victory, the largest of the game.

Alas, it sadly ended for the Lakers in such a dreaded cessation.