The Lakers are faltering towards the playoffs. The departure of Trevor Ariza and arrival of Ron Artest has not worked out as they hoped it would. Ariza was a consistent outside threat and could at least stay in front of quick guards. Ron Artest can overpower most big guards and small forwards – but only if he catches them – it can be safely said that he has lost a step this season. Artest is also shooting the ball terribly this season.
Kobe Bryant is also struggling with his jumper. His competitiveness has gotten the best of him at times. It amazes me that Bryant, after all of his years working under the triangle offense, has yet to determine the balance between when to pick his shots in the triangle and when to abandon the system and take matters into his own hands. Of course, his poor shooting woes (making only 13 of his 47 attempts from the field in his past two games) can be attributed to a broken finger. Still, Bryant has repeatedly failed to feed the ball to Pau Gasol down low. Bryant’s refusal to involve his teammates early on has contributed to the Lakers struggles. Lakers fan better hope Kobe figures this out sooner rather than later.
I’m not saying that the Lakers are better without Kobe, but the Lakers win over the Timberwolves show that L.A. moves the ball around much better without Kobe. Gasol is able to operate more freely without having to look over his back. Gasol is a great player but still fit for a sidekick role.
Gasol and Bryant may seem like the biggest keys to the Lakers success, but in reality its Lamar Odom. Odom had a double-double against Minnesota with 13 points and 12 boards. Forget Andrew Bynum, Shannon Brown, Artest and Jordan Farmar – Odom needs to play well for the Lakers to repeat.
The Lakers had a chance to steal away homecourt advantage from the Cavs if they were to meet in the Finals. But L.A. inexplicable coasted through the second half of the season. The Zen Master admitted that some of his players were tuning him out and had no intention of reading his book assignments. It’ll be interesting to see how Phil Jackson handles his players in this situation. If Jackson could get Dennis Rodman to buy into his system then I don’t see him having any problems with less skilled players.
As long as Kobe is playing and healthy for the playoffs, the Lakers will be competitive. Although his sudden mood swings can really crush the moral of his teammates. Hey Kobe, how about a little encouragement thrown your teammates way? It’ll help a ton when the playoffs start.
Will the defending champs implode in the playoffs? Or will they iron out all their issues to repeat as champions? Many would like to hope for the latter but don’t be surprised if the former happens.