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Los Angeles Lakers: What's Next for Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol?

Kristopher KeatonContributor IIMay 22, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on in the third quarter while taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 19 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Is this the end of the Los Angeles Lakers as we know them? Last night’s 106-90 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder has officially eliminated the Lakers from the postseason. It’s the second year in a row that they have been knocked out of the playoffs in the second round.

Kobe Bryant put up a valiant fight with 42 points and 5 rebounds. But he was the only player to truly show up for the Lakers. Pau Gasol played well, but not nearly well enough to make the Lakers a true threat to the Thunder this series. No one else did anything of significance.

Which begs the question: Where do the Lakers go from here?

Bryant will be owed $28 million next season,  and $30 million the year after, which makes improvements hard with the new salary cap. That means, the Lakers are going to have to rebuild around their aging superstar for the next two years.

He showed he can still dominate a basketball game with his scoring ability but had maybe his most inefficient season ever. He averaged 27.9 points on 23 shots per game this season.

Gasol, a seven-footer with great skills, is highly sought after on the trade market and will more than likely be dealt this summer. His heart and aggression was called into question by Kobe and others, and that has possibly ended his tenure as a Laker.

Those issues, in addition to him being 31 years old, don’t help his value. It will be interesting to see what his return would be.

Andrew Bynum, however, is the biggest chip on the Lakers trade table. At 24, he still has plenty of basketball left, as well as room to improve.

Of course, that’s if he wants to.

His biggest issue this season was his desire to play. Sometimes he appeared engaged, and other times he appeared to be loafing through games.

Over seven feet tall and a brute force in the paint, he should be an annual 20-15 guy. But his play fades in and out with his attitude, and the Lakers have to decide if he is worth another roll of the dice.

The addition of Ramon Sessions was a controversial one, because it ultimately lead to the trade of long time Laker Derek Fisher.

Sessions did what he was bought to Los Angeles to do—provide speed and quickness. But everything else was a downgrade in comparison to Fisher. Was that a result of being new to the spotlight? Perhaps.

But the ending of his season didn’t look well. Will he be the long-term answer at Point Guard for the Lakers? Only time will tell.

One place we can all agree on that has to be blown up, is the bench. A non-factor for most of the season, it reared its ugly head in the playoffs. They got good production from Jordan Hill, acquired in the Derek Fisher trade. They also got decent production from Matt Barnes and Steve Blake.

That won’t be enough in the pursuit of a championship, and the bench has to be completely revamped.

Can the Lakers keep this core together for one more run at a title? I think so. But it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to do so. We have seen the good, with two championships. Now we are seeing the bad.

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