5 Steps the LA Lakers Must Take To Get Back to the NBA Finals
Phil Jackson ending his career with a 122-86 defeat and elimination from the playoffs. Andrew Bynum nearly breaking J.J. Barea in half with a cheap shot to the ribs.
The shocking, ugly exit from the playoffs has yielded many questions. For instance, what steps do the Lakers have to take in order to make it back to the NBA Finals?
That’s the question this writer has attempted to answer.
Here are five steps the team needs to consider taking to get back to the NBA Finals.
5. Give Their Young Guns a Chance To Shine
It may be time for the Los Angeles Lakers to slowly but surely start developing their young prospects.
Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock all have the potential to develop into serviceable NBA players.
Am I saying two rookies and a second-year player should suddenly be thrust into major action on a team expected to contend for a championship? No.
But that’s not to say they shouldn’t just sit on the bench either.
In case people haven't been paying attention, the Lakers aren’t necessarily a young team brimming with athletic players.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the team had a couple of young players they could rely on to contribute a few quality minutes each game?
4. Start the Season with a Bang
The Los Angeles Lakers may feel more pressure than usual to get off to a good start next season.
Following the team’s exit from the playoffs, there were whispers about the current core of Lakers, who won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, being “finished.”
Therefore, the team will be looking to prove their worth a little more than usual.
Now let’s pretend the team stumbles out of the gate. A bad start to the end of the season wouldn’t be the end of the world. After all, the Lakers have Phil Jackson as their head coach. Oops, he retired. I almost forgot. The team now has Mike Brown manning the ship.
Assuming the team gets off to the shaky start I suggested, the media attention will be even more pronounced with a new head coach in town, who some considered to be a questionable hire in the first place.
A good start to the season could be the difference in a good season and a long, arduous one.
3. Steve Blake or a Newcomer as the Team's Starting Point Guard?
I am not convinced the Los Angeles Lakers can win another championship without making a change at the point guard position.
But let’s assume the Lakers don’t make a change at point guard (I certainly hope they do) before next season starts. This only leaves the team one option in an attempt to improve their point guard production.
Use Steve Blake as the starting point guard.
I have written a lot recently about the poor seasons Blake and Derek Fisher had last season and the team’s overall deficiency at point guard (which may have been worse than people realize. The Lakers had the lowest net production from the point guard position, minus-9.7, than any team in the league last season).
But I would be willing to give Blake a chance as the team’s starting point guard.
After all, he has a bigger sample size of quality games in his career than poor ones. And who knows, he may have been a bad fit in the triangle offense.
I love D-Fish as much as the next fan, but it’s becoming too much of a liability to keep him as the team's starting point guard.
2. Find a Consistent Scorer To Back Up Kobe Bryant
This is one area the Los Angeles Lakers have no choice but to address once the lockout comes to an end.
After Shannon Brown chose to opt out of the final year of his contact and become a free agent, the Lakers are currently without a backup for Kobe Bryant.
While Shannon Brown wasn’t a bad backup for Kobe in his two-and-a-half years with the team, he certainly wasn’t great either.
This is why the Lakers need to sign a player who would not just serve as a stand-in for Kobe but could also provide consistent scoring.
Not only would Kobe and the rest of the starters be grateful, but the fans would appreciate it as well, considering how inconsistent the bench was last season.
This is why the Lakers should look into signing Jamal Crawford or J.R. Smith, both of whom are free agents. Smith and Crawford are familiar with coming off the bench and can score in bunches.
1. Remember What Their Strengths Are
Personally, I think one of the biggest mistakes the Los Angeles Lakers could make is thinking they need to break up their frontcourt trio of Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
This started a chain reaction of “Bynum, Gasol or Odom must be traded" chants. But for the time being, the Lakers would be silly to trade any of the three.
Bynum and Odom just had arguably the best seasons of their careers in 2010-11. Odom had an All-Star caliber season, en route to winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
After the All-Star break, Bynum played spirited basketball on the defensive end of the court, averaging 12 rebounds and over two blocks a game, leading the team to a 17-1 record in their first 18 games after the break.
And despite a major slump in the postseason, Gasol was named to his third straight All-Star team and was named to the All-NBA second team for the first time in his career.
Also, the team’s frontcourt trio isn’t as close to applying for an AARP card as some of their teammates are.
Kobe is still undoubtedly the team’s best player, but at the end of the day, the team’s three-headed frontcourt monster is what separates the team from being good and great.
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