It’s not shocking that the Lakers failed to repeat for a third straight year as NBA champions, nor is it a surprise that their players are starting to show the strain of high mileage extended playoff seasons.
What did take me aback was the lack of competitiveness in this year’s team, save for the spurt of dominance immediately after the all-star break. I assumed that was the “real” Lakers team and that it would make an appearance in the playoffs. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
I can’t recall seeing an NBA team of this talent looking so burned out and confused, after having dominated the league. This team didn’t go into gradual decline; it fell off the edge of the table. The rapidity of its disintegration was remarkable.
Like most Lakers fans I was sad to see Coach Phil Jackson go out with his team falling apart in every area. He deserved better, but the horrible performance Sunday doesn’t diminish his extraordinary achievements as pro basketball’s most successful coach.
Now, for the tough off-season, which includes a possible lockout/work stoppage delaying the start of next season. Who will the Lakers tap as coach? Will Jackson’s preferred triangle offense be abandoned? Which players will draw trade interest? Can the team get even a little bit younger, given the hard to move contracts of its older players?