Six games away from Staples, a .500 showing for their troubles and more questions than answers persist for the Los Angeles Lakers. The annual Grammy road swing usually serves as a barometer for where the Lakers are and more importantly where they’re heading. While their split of the six games is actually an improvement on their woeful road performance the inconsistent nature of this squad is what came through load and clear.
The lack of depth is depressing. The offensive struggles staggering. The continued lack of point guard production is still problematic.
Six games away from Staples did little to put to rest any doubts. Instead those symptoms of a team headed for a one and done playoff exit prevailed.
Kobe Bryant is currently playing the same role for Mike Brown that LeBron James did. Seems Brown’s offensive ineptitude falls squarely on the shoulders of his most skilled player, relying heavily on great talent to be everything the team needs to succeed. Problem is Brown is not dealing with Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams as the best secondary options. He’s got All-Star talent in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to also lean on.
Brown’s strong suit, his defense, has been impressive to say the least. However that heavy dependence on defense combined with a low-production offense makes for some tight contests. Unfortunately for the Lakers winning close games is another problem we saw resurface on the road.
Without a proper point guard to run the show, the Lakers become a one trick pony in the clutch. Granted that pony is a thoroughbred named Bryant but even he is not the man to be initiating the offense down the stretch.
Another issue in these close games that relates to the point guard is being able to get your bigs touches in the paint. A legit lead guard knows how to setup cheap buckets for the likes of Bynum and Gasol. Instead what we see is a heavy dependence on Kobe, Gasol getting the rock in areas where he’s not comfortable and Bynum left to fight for table scraps.
The Lakers could have easily had a winning record on their road trip had they not collapsed down the stretch in Philadelphia. They could have also had a losing record had they not got clutch moments from Mamba late in Toronto.
That is the fine line this team is walking. As Kobe recently stated, the margin for error is very small this time around. The Lakers aren’t going to dominate. We’ve seen very few commanding performances this season. The Lakers are good enough to compete with anybody but not good enough to do so over a seven game series. There is none of the depth necessary for the ever changing chess match that is the NBA playoffs.
None of this is anything new or surprising. We were aware of all of these problems prior to the Grammy trip. The question now is what does Mitch Kupchak do next? Gilbert Arenas is on the radar but he’s a gamble at best. Chris Paul was sent to that other team in L.A. while Dwight Howard continues to show a selfish nature that won’t help any team be a title contender.
As it stands the Lakers are two games behind the Clippers for control of the Pacific and a top 4 seed that comes with the division title. With an up-for-grabs Western Conference coming into focus it is easy for the Lakers to get lost in the shuffle sliding down to a 7 or 8 seed on the mere difference of a game or two.
We got almost no answers of this team on the road and it’s not looking like there are very many solutions to be found elsewhere. But as Phil Jackson would remind his team right about now, the destination is the journey. So we, as Laker fans, should just enjoy the ride without concern for where the road will end.