The Los Angeles Lakers are caught in a dire Catch-22.
Allow me to explain.
Last night my Portland Trail Blazers came out and protected their home court against the top seed in the Western Conference and their rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.
My Trail Blazers had two days rest, and the Lakers were coming off of a back-to-back and were missing their head coach, Phil Jackson.
The Lakers lost and, in doing so, proved why they cannot win the championship in 2009.
Kobe Bryant still does not trust his teammates. This was made apparent by his poor choice of shot selection down the stretch.
The only player he trusted with the ball late in the game was Derek Fisher. And while Fisher is very talented, without former center Shaquille O'Neal drawing the double team, he is not as dangerous from behind the arch as he used to be.
For that matter, since the departure of O'Neal, can anyone name one Laker besides Bryant who made a big shot in a playoff series? Bryant almost toppled the Phoenix Suns with killer game-winning buzzer beaters in 2006, but Phoenix rallied back.
Bryant's big steal at the end of game five of the 2008 NBA Finals against Boston is what kept them from losing at home, only to get slaughtered in Boston.
I do not know of any big shot made by any Laker in the post season other than Bryant, that made a difference in winning a playoff game.
The team is solely reliant on his heroics in the playoffs.
That will not cut it.
The 2000-02 championship team had noteworthy players like Fisher, Rick Fox (I hate the name), Robert Horry, O'Neal and even Brian Shaw—all contributing with big plays down the stretch of playoff games.
As long as Kobe does not trust his teammates, they cannot win.
Which brings me to the L.A. Catch-22. How could Bryant trust his teammates?
Aside from Olympian and World Champion Pau Gasol and three-time NBA champion Fisher, none of his teammates command any respect.
Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, and Sasha Vujacic are all L.A. pretty boys who do not strike the fear of God into anyone. Lamar Odom is better known for his flagrant fouls than his late game heroics, and Andrew Bynum is still young and learning.
The Lakers may well be ten games ahead of the No. 2 spot out West, but a lot of teams have just allowed the Lakers to roll over them this season. The only games Los Angeles won this year that strike me as poignant are the sweep of Boston and Cleveland.
But regular season wins will not count if they make it to face either of these teams for the title round.
LeBron James has better role players and the Celtics have more pride than the Los Angeles Lakers.
Going back to the Catch-22, the Lakers cannot win until Bryant trusts his teammates, and his teammates are nobody Bryant can trust. Thus Bryant cannot trust his teammates. Thus the Lakers cannot win.
The Lakers may well make it to the NBA Finals, but they cannot win.
After 2009, the Lakers days in the NBA will be numbered.
Mark my words.