May 9, 2011

The end of the Kobe Bryant era?

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball

Did we just witness the end of an era?

With the Dallas Mavericks unceremonious sweep of the two-time defending champion Lakers, this could be the end of the Kobe Bryant era. Sure, he’s still going to come back and be one of the top 10 players in all of basketball next season— if and when that happens — but this stunning series defeat has showed us that he and his Lakers are, in fact, mortals.

Against Dallas in Game 4, Los Angeles never even looked like they had a shot at winning. They couldn’t defend anything the Mavericks did and played below average on the offensive end. Bryant scored a meek 17 points while Pau Gasol only took ten shots. I thought this team was supposed to breeze through the west, not flame out so furiously.

And speaking of furious, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum both got tossed for a couple of bad fouls that came out of frustration, no doubt. Bynum’s forearm to JJ Barea’s chest in mid-air will certainly earn him a fine and a couple of games off to begin next season.

But the main thing we have learned her is about Kobe: He simply can’t just will his team to victory any more, not at his age and with the amount of miles he has put on his body. Playing in three NBA finals in a row, plus the 2008 Olympics, means he took part in more than 100-120 games each year and barely missed any time with injuries.

The Black Mamba needs some help from his friends and he needs more quality from his supporting cast. Steve Blake clearly isn’t cutting it, Ron Artest is well past his prime and Derek Fisher may have retired sometime during this season. Bynum, Gasol and Odom are all really good players, but they have roughly the same reading on their odometers as Kobe over these past three years.

The Lakers need to freshen things up and evolve. Phil Jackson leaving will certainly change the dynamic in the locker room, but that’s an issue for another time. We need to start talking about a little bit of a roster overhaul before a coaching one.

Earlier this season, rumours of Dwight Howard eventually making his way to L.A. began to surface. While Superman would be a huge improvement, his arrival wouldn’t address the Lakers biggest matchup problem: Small, speedy point guards.

So why wouldn’t the Lakers use their trade resources to go for the man that makes the most sense: Chris Paul. His trade value would be roughly the same as Howard’s and he would sure up a problem the Lakers have had for what seems like decades.

With Jackson gone too, CP3’s offensive talents may not be wasted in the triangle offence either. And on defence, he’s one of the best in the league.

So, while the summer is still far from beginning and labour uncertainty is abound, it may not be too early for Mitch Kupchak to start thinking about his team’s direction.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Leave a Reply