With Sunday’s loss officially ending the Lakers season, the feeling around Laker Nation cannot be summed up in one word.
A massacre at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks was not the way the two-time defending champs intended to go out.
Nor was it the way Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson intended to ride into the sunset.
But the 122-86 loss at American Airways Arena put the finishing touches on a season that saw a lot of ups and downs in what many in Laker Nation were hoping to be the last leg of a three-peat.
Such was not the case, as the Mavericks imposed their will on the Lakers, using Jason Kidd and Jose Barea to cause dribble penetration and create numerous problems for the Laker defense.
Coming into the series, the Lakers knew they had matchup problems against Dallas, but not many around Laker Nation thought it would be too much to overcome.
Boy, were they wrong.
Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki created more problems for the Lakers, as if they didn’t have enough, and Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry made life a living-hell as they torched the Lakers even more coming off the bench.
If there was one thing many saw from the Lakers Sunday afternoon, it was a lack of heart.
From the end of the first quarter, it seemed as if the Lakers were ready to mail in the season, go home, and finally get a chance to relax without having to play another two series before the season ended.
True, the core of this Laker team has been through their fare share of postseason battles, but if this was to be the end, why did it have to happen with a sweep?
Around L.A., there was talk of a comeback, historic in a sense, as it had never been done in 98 attempts before in the NBA. Count this as 99.
But with the season over, and mediocrity setting in around L.A. with the state of the Lakers, management is aware that changes must be made to get this storied franchise back to the NBA Finals, where it belongs.
One face that, hopefully, will not be going anywhere is Kobe Bryant, locked up for another 3 years. Pau Gasol also has 3 years remaining, but fans in L.A. grew tired of his inconsistencies in the playoffs and have gone back to labeling the Spaniard as “soft” for the lack of aggression he showed through the 10 games of the playoffs.
Andrew Bynum has 2 years left on his contract, but his future is bright if he can remain healthy.
He made good strides at key times during the season and the playoffs, but it was overshadowed by injury and his openness to talk about the lack of trust in the locker room.
Lamar Odom has two years left, and Ron Artest 3, but neither of these players, who stepped up huge in the 2010 playoffs, really showed up in the second round against Dallas.
Derek Fisher has two years left, and Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes each have another year on their contracts. Steve Blake is under contract through 2014, and Luke Walton through 2013
But even if these players are under contract, the Lakers will do what is necessary to improve the team and get it ready for the 2011-12 season.
Positions needing upgrade
- Point guard
- Don’t get me wrong, I love Fisher, but the Lakers need a speedy point guard with the ability to play defense on a player like Jason Kidd and sink a big 3 when needed.
- Small Forward
- With Artest and Odom inconsistent and Barnes not getting ample time to prove himself in the playoffs, the Lakers must imrpove a position that was once a strength. Walton saw four minutes in game 4 with the game and series already well in hand
- Power Forward
- Gasol has been great since the Lakers got him from Memphis, but the amount of playing the Spaniard has done over the last few seasons, not to mention international play, has worn on the big guy.
- The Lakers were absolutely outplayed by the Mavericks bench in the four games, and there was no stopping it. This was not the Laker bench that could come in and give a spark when needed, just slow the bleeding to provide a rest for the starters.
With the season now over, Laker Nation will wait and see what changes management makes, as the Buss family is never content with finishing anything but as champions.