Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Laker Post-Game Blues

In the fourth quarter in Oklahoma City on Monday night, when the LA Lakers were being trampled by the Thunder, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant were sniping at each other on court. They were expending more energy battling each other than they were on fighting the Thunder. Kobe was angry that Pau, who had a great night rebounding but was missing easy shots, seemed to ease up., loafing in that final quarter. Pau was steaming because Kobe, as usual, had been taking too many shots--some, as usual, bad ones. Pau felt Kobe's ball-hogging was forcing the big men into a background role. The Lakers lost, 106-90, meekly bowing out of the series in five games.

According to a source close to two Lakers, the arguing continued in the locker room and got pretty nasty. Pau, Mr. Nice Guy, finally backed off. But Kobe, Mr. Intensity, was seething for the rest of the night, continually jabbing at Pau and also at point guard Ramon Sessions, complaining that these two and others had underperformed. Meanwhile Pau was mired in gloom, concerned that he may have played his last game as a Laker. He may be right.

That loss showcased the Lakers flaws. One problem is that the Thunder outran the Lakers, who are anchored by two big men, Pau and Andrew Bynum. Both can be a liability in a fast-paced game. Their height--both are seven-footers--can be an asset but that size, when the pace picks up, can be a drawback. To speed up the offense, one of them may have to go--and it's not going to be Bynum, who  is only 24. Pau, however, is 31 and not the power in the paint that Bynum is. In trade talks, Pau, who was almost traded last year, is clearly their juiciest bait.

Other problems.The bench, once again, was horrible-particularly Matt Barnes, who lost his shooting touch. Almost certainly he's finished as a Laker. Jordan Hill was OK at times, but the others, including guard Steve Blake, are terrible. Another sore spot is point guard. Sessions, who finished the season promisingly, fizzled in the playoff pressure, being woefully outplayed by Denver's Ty Lawson and embarrassed by the Thunder's fleet Russell Westbrook. Will the Lakers give up on Sessions or will they gamble that he improves?
That's a huge decision.

The Lakers' biggest problem, though, is their biggest asset--Andrew Bynum. He can be an unstoppable force or he can be a lazy blockhead. His pulling down just four rebounds in Monday's closeout game against the Thunder? Unacceptable.

According to the sources, Bynum, after Monday's Thunder loss, didn't seem that perturbed. Typical Bynum. That, said the sources, also made Kobe fume. Bynum's feeling about Kobe's anger? Said the sources, Bynum couldn't have cared less.