LA Lakers: 5 Steps Team Can Take to Ensure an NBA Finals Berth in 2011-12

Joshua SextonSenior Analyst IISeptember 19, 2011

LA Lakers: 5 Steps Team Can Take to Ensure an NBA Finals Berth in 2011-12

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    This article will look at steps the Los Angeles Lakers need to take in order to get back to the NBA Finals in 2011-12.

    While the images of the team's loss to the Dallas Mavericks in last spring’s postseason are unfortunately etched in the memories of all of us Lakers fans, it’s time to move on and start focusing on how the team can improve and get back to winning championships.

    Here are five steps the Lakers can take to ensure they are playing in the NBA Finals at the end of next season.

5. Maybe Play Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom at the Same Time?

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    Under Phil Jackson, the Los Angeles Lakers used Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum as their primary starters in the frontcourt, with Lamar Odom coming off the bench as the team’s sixth man.

    While I think the Lakers would ultimately be smart to keep Odom coming off the bench, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing the three on the court at the same time more in the future.

    Really, there would be nothing to lose by trying it. And what if it turned out to be a huge success? After their loss in the playoffs last spring, the team should be up for trying anything new to keep the opposition on their toes in hopes of capturing their old championship form.

4. Preserve Kobe Bryant as Much as Possible

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    Prior to the last couple of seasons, fans of the Los Angeles Lakers knew two things: The team was the defending champions and they would be running the triangle offense under Phil Jackson.

    However, going into the 2011-12 season, this is no longer the case. With Kobe Bryant being the competitor he is, I am afraid he will try to exert himself too much next season, trying to prove he is still worthy of being considered an elite player and the team is still capable of winning a championship.

    But the Lakers must try their best to pace Kobe throughout the course of the season to ensure he is ready for the playoffs.

    The team can do this by monitoring his game minutes (maybe the team should consider sitting him a game every now and then) and practice time in addition to making sure the team runs their offense through Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

3. The Players Must Find a Way to Respect Mike Brown, If They Don't Already

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    For all we know, everyone on the Los Angeles Lakers roster is behind Mike Brown 100 percent and have no doubt he will lead them back to the NBA Finals.

    But somehow, that seems a little far fetched.

    How well Brown and the players on the roster mesh will go a long way in determining if the Lakers have a good season or an underwhelming one.

    Any coach would be in a precarious position replacing Phil Jackson, but Mike Brown has a few glaring disadvantages.

    For starters, it’s tougher for coaches who have never played in the league to earn their team’s respect. Also, his postseason resume isn’t a thing of beauty either. After all, he was the guy the Cleveland Cavaliers tried to blame for the team’s postseason shortcomings in hopes of keeping LeBron James in town.

    Can the Lakers make it back to the NBA Finals with Mike Brown as coach? Maybe. But the first step will be the team looking past the fact Jackson isn’t coming back and reaching a mutual respect with their new coach.

2. Find a New Starting Point Guard

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    The time has come for the Los Angeles Lakers to find a new starting point guard. While I think the team would be wise to keep Derek Fisher as a backup, especially for postseason play, Fisher’s best days are clearly behind him.

    And by new point guard, I don’t necessarily mean the team needs to go all out. The team doesn’t need a Chris Paul or a Deron Williams, just a younger point guard who is capable of facilitating whatever Mike Brown has planned on offense. Oh yeah, and someone who can stop the team’s opposing point guard from scoring at will, unlike Fisher the last couple of seasons.

1. Make Sure Pau Gasol Has Snapped out of His Slump

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    There is no way the Los Angeles Lakers can make sure Pau Gasol has snapped out of the slump he was in during last spring’s postseason, but the team can certainly cross their fingers and hope for the best.

    Because unless Gasol is ready to bounce back and play the way Lakers fans have come to love and expect, the Lakers will not only struggle to make it back to the NBA Finals, but they will struggle to earn one of the top four playoff spots in the Western Conference.

    But there is no real reason to think Gasol won’t snap out of his funk. After all, he is an All-Pro player who has a much larger sample size of outstanding games than bad ones. Also, Gasol’s performance in this summer’s FIBA competition is a good sign he is more focused on the game of basketball than he was during the playoffs.