Forget Championship; Lakers Not Even A Playoff Team

The standings reflect exactly what the 2011-12 Los Angeles Lakers truly are. Currently they’re on the outside looking in for the Western Conference playoffs.

You can argue that it is early in the season but we’re nearly a third of the way through.

You can throw out hypothetical scenarios but no title contender should have a road record worst than the dead last New Orleans Hornets.

You can debate whether or not a blockbuster trade would turn things around but the reality is the current Lakers are destined for the NBA Lottery.

When the Clippers landed Chris Paul they not only took the Lakers’ thunder they also stole their playoff spot. Currently it is the other team in Los Angeles that sits third in the Western Conference while the Lake Show languishes in the winning percentage battle for the 8th and final playoff spot available.

Having topped the 100-point plateau just once this season, it is clear that the offensive woes are here to stay. Without another addition to the roster, this Laker team would struggle to break 90 on average even if Mike D’Antonio and his pickup style of hoops were employed by Jerry Buss.

Hard to believe that just three years ago the Lakers were looking poised to carry a dynasty into the new decade. Yet here we sit just two years into the 2010’s and it’s looking like another overhaul is necessary. Last time it took the Shaquille O’Neal shakeup to rejuvenate the franchise. While trading Kobe Bryant is as likely as Tim Tebow breaking NFL passing records the winds of change are already blowing.

Clearly the Buss family saw the writing on the wall. Why else would they allow Mitch Kupchak to ship Lamar Odom out without even trying to get competitive bids going? While that decision was influenced by financial reasons the chance to trade Pau Gasol is strictly hoops related.

It has become painfully obvious that Gasol just isn’t a franchise player. For what the Lakers were lacking in the post-Shaq era Gasol was a good fit. He fit the exact player type necessary to play alongside Kobe. Gasol was talented enough to be an All-Star yet undemanding enough to remain content as a second fiddle.

That is where the new era of Laker dominance differed greatly from the previous.

Say what you will of the Kobe-Shaq drama but both were premiere players that demanded the rock in all situations. Between Gasol and Odom you had two players with serious game yet checked their egos at the locker room for the good of the team. Admirable qualities for sure but right about now Gasol needs some of that Shaq swagger in order for the Lakers to remain relevant in the NBA landscape.

All the while the man that has eluded lofty expectations is Andrew Bynum. For years we’re practiced patience with young Drew. Well, that time has come and gone. It is now or never for Bynum. He’s had too much NBA coaching and way too much cash deposited into his account to continue to get by as an ancillary piece.

Bynum’s play has improved but he’s still not up to franchise standards. With the way the NBA is going these days the Kobe-Shaq/Dueling Franchise Player model is the current blueprint. As it stands the Lakers have but one franchise player and he’s on his last legs.

What would help those tired legs of Kobe would be an adequate bench. Even that is a complete rebuild for Los Angeles. Much like the last time the Lakers rebuilt on the fly the former role players are now being asked to play expanded roles.

Matt Barnes is no longer an energy guy giving you 15 solid minutes a night. He’s a starter expected to contribute in a multitude of ways.

While expectations go up for Barnes the exact opposite is happening for Metta World Peace. He too was once a piece of the championship puzzle but now you’d expect Metta to be more involved. Problem is his move to the role of 6th man has become a slow NBA death. With each game World Peace becomes more mascot than the matchup nightmare he was supposed to be.

Everywhere you look on this roster you see ancillary players being forced into lofty roles. That is a recipe for watching the playoffs from the couch. Even if the Lakers sneak in there is little doubt they’d be able make much noise. Having to go through Denver, Oklahoma City, Utah or even the Clippers ensures another frustrating exit early in the postseason.

Makes you wonder if this team is better served without a poor playoff showing. But that is not worth debating. Coach Brown’s goals are the same as every man that coaches the Lakers, to hang a banner. Right about now he’d be fooling himself into thinking that is a real possibility. What is real is being two games above .500 with 1 road win and an anemic offense sputtering on the brink of a complete breakdown. If any of that sounds like the stuff title teams are made of then you must also think the Miami Heat were the true NBA champions last year.

This is not the BCS. The real winners earn their keep. On paper the Lakers are a top-10 club. Currently these Lakers are keeping company with middle-of-the-road teams. If that doesn’t sound like a team destined for playoff demise if not missing the postseason all together then I’d suggest you stop watching now. The ugly truth is being revealed one painful game at a time.

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Tags: Andrew Bynum Jerry Buss Kobe Bryant Lamar Odom Los Angeles Lakers Matt Barnes Metta World Peace Mike D'antoni Mitch Kupchak Shaquille O'neal Tim Tebow

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