Jekyll and Hyde: A.K.A The Los Angeles Lakers

Torey ZiskaCorrespondent IIMay 26, 2009

DENVER - MAY 25:  (L-R) Pau Gasol #16 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers sit on the bench in the second half against the Denver Nuggets in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 25, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. 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 Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

What is wrong with the Lakers? Well it's not Kobe Bryant. The best player in the NBA continues to play extremely well night in and night out. On the other hand, the same cannot be said for his teammates.

Bryant's best friend on and off the court, Derek Fisher, has been non-existent since the Utah Series. Backup point guard Shannon Brown has been just as bad, if not worse, than Fisher since that same Utah series (though to be fair, he hasn't been getting consistent playing time).

Trevor Ariza, who overall has been very good, has scored in single digits in four of the Lakers' past eight games, and LA is just 1-3 in those games.

Andrew Bynum might be the biggest question mark.  He is shooting over 50% from the field in the entire playoffs, yet is averaging under five shots per game.

Luke Walton, a one-time starter and decent contributor for the Lakers, has scored more than six points in just one game in this entire postseason.

Lamar Odom, perhaps one of the most talented players in the entire NBA, has only scored 10 or more points in half of the Lakers' postseason games, yet when he does the Lakers are 6-2, and the two losses were by a combined five points.

What is the real reason for the Lakers' postseason struggles? In my opinion, it is coach Phil Jackson.

I stood up for Jackson for many years, saying he was one of the greatest coaches of all-time. But despite his nine championship rings, I am not even sure he is a Hall of Fame coach anymore.

He has perhaps the most talented team in the entire NBA and has absolutely no idea how to motivate them. This is the same team that was embarrassed in the NBA finals last season, and instead of being more aggressive and tougher, they appear to have gone backward and become more soft and timid.

Jackson rarely calls timeouts when his team is in trouble. He never gets on his players when they make mistakes (for instance, leaving three-point shooters wide open, something the Lakers are actually quite good at).

Not to mention that his substitution patterns have been extremely questionable.  With the exception of Yao Ming, (and maybe Dwight Howard, should LA and Orlando meet) there is no player in the entire playoffs that can stop Andrew Bynum. Yet, Jackson is playing the 21-year-old less than 17 minutes per game.

I realize Bynum often gets in early foul trouble, but not in every game. There is no excuse for him to be playing that few minutes per game.

Many will say that Odom presents more matchup problems and he should play more than Bynum. Well why not play Odom, Bynum, and even Gasol, all at once?  Throw in Kobe and either Ariza or a point guard and what team is going to be able to score against all that length?

It seems as if the Lakers (minus Kobe) have zero desire, zero passion, and absolutely zero heart. They seem content to play all seven games, since they have home court advantage. They lost home court in the Houston series and the Denver series, only to regain it in Game 3 of both series. In Game 4 of both series, they laid goose eggs.

I have no doubt the Lakers could reel off six wins in their next seven or eight games and become NBA champs, but I also have no doubt that they are capable of playing uninspired, mediocre basketball, and could be left sitting at home watching the Nuggets play for their first ever NBA title.


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