The Lakers hoped to send Phil Jackson into retirement with another NBA Championship, but they fell flat in the playoffs last year. Dallas swept the Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Mavericks were certainly a very good team last year, but there’s no debating that the Lakers had no business getting swept out of the playoffs.
Now the Lakers must go about trying to get back to the top without Jackson on the bench.
Kobe Bryant may be past his prime at 33 years old, but he is still one of the best players in the league. Bryant says he wants to retire a Laker, and Los Angeles fans have to be glad to hear that from their star.
It appears Bryant will be healthier heading into this season, and that is a big positive for the Lakers. Andrew Bynum will also be counted on in a big way this year. Bynum has been slowed by knee problems for the last couple years, but when he is healthy, he can be a real force down low.
A proud franchise such as the Los Angeles Lakers never accepts anything less than a ring. Bryant definitely understands that the window will start to close on him in the next couple years, so this team needs to win now.
Can the Lakers make their way back to the top? The team will have to learn a new system and get the kinks worked out right away.
The single biggest move of the offseason for this team was probably the departure of Jackson as head coach. Losing a guy that is in the discussion as the best NBA coach of all time is never going to help a team.
The Lakers brought in Mike Brown to take over the top job this season. Brown was previously the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers when LeBron James played in Cleveland. The hope is that Brown can keep Bryant happy and get the most out of this team.
Lamar Odom was to be part of the CP3 trade, and that didn’t please him one bit. Odom demanded a trade after the Paul deal was vetoed. Then the Lakers promptly traded Odom to the Mavericks.
The curious part is that the Lakers really didn’t get anything in return for Odom, who was the Sixth Man of the Year in the NBA last season. Should the Lakers have let Odom go so quickly? It doesn’t seem wise to me to let such a good player go without getting anything in return.
Josh McRoberts was brought in to give the frontcourt a little more depth. Shannon Brown was one of the first guys off the bench last year, but he left the team in the offseason. Jason Kapono is an addition to the team this year, and he should stretch the defense with his shooting ability.
Expect rookie point guard Darius Morris to get some playing time this year. Morris could end up being the point guard of the future for this team.
2011-12 Los Angeles Lakers Schedule
The Lakers will get a very early look at the difficulty of a condensed schedule.
Los Angeles hosts the Bulls on Christmas Day to open the season. The team will turn around and play Sacramento the next night, then come back home to host Utah on Dec. 27. It could be seen as a good thing for the Lakers, though, since they will get their back-to-back-to-back tough period out of the way early on in the season.
An interesting section of the Lakers' schedule begins on Jan. 16 at home against Dallas. After hosting the defending champions, the Lakers will have back-to-back games in Miami and Orlando on Jan. 19 and 20.
The team’s longest road trip comes in early February, when they will play six straight games away from home.
2011-12 Los Angeles Lakers NBA Futures Odds
This team may have gotten worse over the offseason, but they are still getting plenty of respect from the oddsmakers.
JustBet lists the Lakers at +350 to win the NBA Championship this year. Only Miami is given a better chance of winning it all.
I wouldn’t have put the Lakers as the second favorite to win it all, but the oddsmakers know they can because the public loves the team.
2011 Los Angeles Lakers Predictions
The Lakers appear to be in transition this year.
The trade of Odom to the Mavericks is likely to try to help them get Dwight Howard next offseason, but that is far from a guarantee.
For the time being, I do think the Lakers took a step backward. A team with Bryant, Gasol and Bynum will still be very good, but I just don’t think they have what it takes to clear all the hurdles in front of them this season.
Look for the Lakers to be bounced out of the playoffs by a team like Oklahoma City or Dallas.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports NBA picks Web site.