If there is anything obvious about this wild and crazy, strike-abbreviated, deal-busting, emotional basketball season for the Los Angeles Lakers, it's that the team as presently constructed has very little (if any) chance of winning a world championship. It's thundering 102-93 loss to Oklahoma City last Thursday at Staples Center certainly proved that.
Kobe Bryant, winner of five NBA titles, the league's leading scorer and a perennially-optimistic, glass-is-half-full sort, was extremely calm following the Lakers' recent loss to the Thunder. And though he still feels the Lakers can win the crown this season, he also sounded realistic about their chances.
When asked by L.A. Times beat writer Mike Bresnahan why the Lakers could not sustain a strong effort against OKC and were ultimately run out of their own building, Bryant said: "Because they were better and have more of it than we do. It's as simple as that. That's a formidable foe...."
Yes, it is simple as all that. What's frustratingly odd about this group is that while the Lakers possess three tremendous All-Stars in Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, the talent pool falls off a cliff from there. And, as the Dallas Mavericks proved last year and the Thunder are demonstrating now, you win with a full complement of players, not just two or three (take note, Miami).
And, so, with just 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Lakers find themselves drifting rather than sprinting towards the finish line. They did manage to rebound this weekend and defeat two inferior teams, New Orleans and Golden State.
Both performances were mediocre by L.A.; they almost lost to a Hornets team that is 13-40 and missing a number of starters from a vastly-depleted lineup. In that game, Kobe Bryant missed his first 15 shots, the most misses to start a game of his 16-year career.
The simple truth is that these Lakers are not as good as: Oklahoma City, Chicago, Miami, or San Antonio, all teams they very well could face in the playoffs. The first three are younger, deeper, stronger and quicker than L.A. San Antonio is long in the tooth like the Lakers, but much deeper than the Purple and Gold..
Are there fixes to what ails this team? Of course there are. Can they be fixed in time to make a deep run in the playoffs and get back to the Finals? Probably not, though miracles do happen.
Take a look at just what the Lakers need to do in order to get over the hump and make a run at the league's elite. In a perfect basketball world, this could happen, though we all know there is no such thing as perfect.