Following the Lakers' dismal 122-86 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night, knocking them out of the playoffs and their opportunity to defend their title a third straight year, the team was left with more questions than answers.
Notably, where was Ron Artest's defense we came to know from last year, what happened to Pau Gasol's game, is this the end for Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson as a Laker and finally, what was Andrew Bynum thinking as he laid his elbow into Jose Barea's ribs in the dying minutes of Game 4?
What had happened to the squad that stumbled into the All-Star break with a 4-3 road trip record, only to respond with a 17-1 run? This is the same team that followed that up with another trip over its own feet towards the playoffs, winning only two of seven games.
This was not something new, however, and the Lakers have rebounded from such play before as seen last season, with the end resulting in another championship. The Lakers were not worried. Should they have been?
They entered the postseason dropping their first home game, resulting in a tied series, eventually won after six games. The Lakers were still not the team from 2010-11 season.
Artest was struggling on defense, allowing the opponent in getting any open shot it wanted, while Bynum had a lack of ball touches, and who, when considered your biggest offensive threat in the paint, had resulted in minimal impact.
Then enter Dallas, which stole the first game and responded with three straight wins, resulting in a surprising second-round sweep of the two-time defending champions.
Fisher had but the smallest of contributions during the post-season, and may very well be on his way out with Jackson and, quite possibly, Gasol or Bynum, possibly both.
As the Laker season comes to an end. there is no doubt that Kobe Bryant is already in talks with team owner Jerry Buss, looking at any and all options available to the team heading into the 2011-12 season, with a roster shake-up imminent.
There is no question that Bynum must answer for his cheap shot to Barea's ribs in Game 4, which resulted in a flagrant foul two and an immediate ejection from the game.
Anyone who has followed the Lakers over the years has always witnessed, whether through ups or downs, the professionalism that was relayed to the opponent on the court. The actions of Bynum Sunday night was uncharacteristic of a Laker, and must be answered for.
The team has a lot of questions it needs to answer, and it could quite possibly answer those with several roster changes either through releases or trades, most notably looking at one Orlando Magic player as a possible substitute.
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