What is wrong with the Lakers? Well it's not Kobe Bryant
. The best player in the NBA continues to play extremely well night in and night out. On the other hand, the same cannot be said for his teammates.
Bryant's best friend on and off the court, Derek Fisher, has been nonexistent since the Utah Series. Backup point guard Shannon Brown has been just as bad, if not worse, than Fisher since the Utah series (though to be fair, he hasn't been getting consistent playing time).
Trevor Ariza, who overall has been very good, has scored in single digits in four of the Lakers' past eight games, and L.A. is only 1-3 in those games.
Andrew Bynum might be the biggest question mark. He is shooting over 50% from the field in the entire playoffs, yet is averaging under five shots per game.
Luke Walton, a one-time starter and decent contributor for the Lakers, has scored more than six points in only one game in the postseason.
Lamar Odom, perhaps one of the most talented players in the entire NBA, has only scored 10 or more points in half of the Lakers' postseason games, yet when he does the Lakers are 6-2, and the two losses were by a combined five points.
What is the real reason for the Lakers' postseason struggles? In my opinion, it is Coach Phil Jackson.
I stood up for Jackson for many years, saying he was one of the greatest coaches of all time. But despite his nine championship rings, I am not even sure he is a Hall of Fame coach anymore.
He has perhaps the most talented team in the NBA and has absolutely no idea how to motivate his players. This is the same team that was embarrassed in the NBA finals last season, and instead of being more aggressive and tougher, they appear to have gone backward and become more soft and timid.
Jackson rarely calls timeouts when his team is in trouble. He never gets on his players when they make mistakes (for instance, leaving three-point shooters wide open, something the Lakers are quite good at).
Not to mention that his substitution patterns have been extremely questionable. With the exception of Yao Ming, (and maybe Dwight Howard, should L.A. and Orlando meet) there is no player in the playoffs who can stop Bynum. Yet, Jackson is playing the 21-year-old under 17 minutes per game.
I realize Bynum often gets in early foul trouble, but not in every game. There is no excuse for him to be playing that few minutes per game.
Many will say that Odom presents more matchup problems and he should play more than Bynum. Well why not play Odom, Bynum, and even Pau Gasol, simultaneously? Throw in Kobe and either Ariza or a point guard and what team is going to be able to score against all that length?
It seems as if the Lakers (minus Kobe) have zero desire, zero passion and absolutely zero heart. They seem content to play all seven games, since they have home court advantage. They lost home court in the Houston series and the Denver series, only to regain it in Game 3 of both series. In Game 4 of both series, they laid goose eggs.
I have no doubt the Lakers could reel off six wins in their next seven or eight games and become NBA champs, but I also have no doubt that they are capable of playing uninspired, mediocre basketball, and could be left sitting at home watching the Nuggets play for their first NBA title.
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posts.Photo: Lakers' Derek Fisher. Credit: Pat Sullivan / Associated Press