Time to panic for the Lakers?

Posted by By at 19 February, at 16 : 09 PM Print

The Los Angeles Lakers started the season 8-0.  They were winning with ease and the defending NBA Champions looked primed for another run at “their” title. 

The Lakers knew heading into this season that winning the Championship again wasn’t going to be easy…it never is.  This season, unlike any others saw new faces in new places and teams loading up with the intent to compete against the NBA elite and more importantly the Lakers. 

The Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder are all serious contenders to their throne and are all gunning for Kobe, Gasol and the Lake Show.  These teams will stop at nothing to break down the Lakers and take the title away from Tinsel Town.  The problem this year is that The Lakers appear to be beating themselves. 

Steven Blake and Matt Barnes were brought in to add depth to an already skilled Lakers roster.  Derek Fisher and Ron Artest are both long in the tooth and are showing signs of slowing down.  The idea of bringing in Blake and Barnes looked logical on paper and was  working as the Lakers had the depth and skill to give their Stars added rest in preparation for another title run.

What’s happened however is the Lakers appear to be showing their weakness.  And what that weakness is, is quite startling.  Age.  Their age appears to be catching up to them.  Kobe is 32, Gasol is 30, Artest is 31, Odom is 31 and Fisher is 36 years old.  That ranks the Lakers as the 2nd oldest team in the league.  Their age appears to be catching up with them.  Their starting 5 is all over the age of 30 with the exception of Andrew Bynum, who himself has been extremely injury prone and inconsistent.  When matching up against the younger and more athletic teams in the league, the Lakers look slow and methodical.  It will win them games, and a 38-19 win/loss record heading into the All-Star break is a great record.  Kobe Bryant has had his minutes per game lowered once again this season in order to preserve him for the playoffs.  This is a great game plan, considering guys like Shannon Brown have more than proved that they are capable backups in the NBA.

Their most recent (and current) 3 game losing streak has come to the hands of some of the weaker teams in the league.  The Bobcats and Cavaliers easily defeated the Lakers.  These two teams showed toughness and tenacity that the Lakers just couldn’t match.  These losses have perfectly illustrated the problem with this version of the Lakers.  They are older and slower than these 2 younger teams and were unable to match their energy. 

Before Matt Barnes went down with his knee injury, the Lakers appeared headed in the right direction.  Bynum had just returned from his own knee issues in December and the Lakers looked dominant.  They had depth, they had toughness and their roster looked poised and collective.  Since Barnes’ injury, the Lakers have shown weakness.  Now I am not saying that Matt Barnes is the missing piece to the Lakers chances at repeating as Champions.  What I am saying is that it is a domino effect of what is happening in Los Angeles. 

With Matt Barnes out, it forces Ron Artest to play additional minutes, which based on his play this year he looks not too interested in playing.  With Artest playing more, it weakens the bench as they are then forced to play more minutes.  Now, there is nothing wrong with the Lakers bench, however they are a few levels below the skill set of Matt Barnes and Ron Artest defensively.  With Barnes out, Artest playing more it leaves the Lakers relying more on players like Luke Walton, Shannon Brown and Derrick Caracter.  Add this to Kobe Bryant not only playing less minutes per game, but with his injury issues with his knees and his ligament in his hand and you have a recipe for disaster.

Luckily for the Lakers, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol are having monster seasons and they are able to stay in and win a majority of their games.  But losses to the Cavaliers, Bobcats, Kings and Bucks this season have shown they lack focus and the drive to beat the lesser teams in the league.  Compound that with losses to some of the NBA Elite (Mavs, Spurs, Celts) and you can see why there is a cause for concern.

The Lakers will make the playoffs.  The Lakers have Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, 2 major reasons why they will undoubtedly make another deep run at the title.  What the Lakers lack this season, is drive.  After winning Championships, what motivation does this group of players have to continue their dominance of the league?

Maybe the NBA world is panicking for no reason.  Maybe the Lakers are on cruise control and are just waiting for the regular season to end so they can resume their dominance they showed last season when they won the NBA Title.

Whatever he result, no one doubts their skill and experience.  But one must ask themselves whether experience and Kobe Bryant is enough to beat some of the leagues best when push comes to shove.

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