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Laker Troubles

The Lakers

Think of the full spectrum of NBA players ranked on a scale of 0 to 100…96-100 being superstar, future Hall of Famers in their prime (think LeBron, Durant, Rondo right now), and 0-10 as either has-beens barely hanging on or fringe 12th man/D-League talents. Most rosters have a mix of guys between 30-75 with an outlier or two towards either extreme. The Lakers have 3 guys who used to be in that elite range:  Kobe, Nash…and yeah, Gasol kinda. They have another who’s maybe or maybe not still there -Howard. Then there’s Artest who used to be somewhere between 85-90 but is more like 55-60ish these days. I’d put Kobe at 87ish now, Nash 76ish, & Gasol 81ish…down from their highs but certainly more than enough when all together.

But then comes the gap – the bench. There’s no Jason Terry type talent to bridge the divide between starters and subs. We fall right through the 50’s, get down to the low 40’s for Jordan Hill (40-42?), then another big gap to four former 2nd round picks, none higher than 38th, and the decrepit remains of Antawn Jamison (3.8 pts, 3.4 rebs, 43%, 16 min/night)…but go easy on him – he’s 36 and in his 15th season, just trying to catch a ride to a ring. None of these guys outside of Hill should play more than 5-8 minutes a night on a balanced NBA roster. Blake (38th pick in ’03) is still only averaging 5.4 pts/gm even though he’s up to 29 min/night. He’s shooting 34.6%. Devin Ebanks (43rd pick in ’10) is at 23.1% in 10 min/nt. Darius Morris is at 37.5% and 1 asst in over 13 min/nt – not so hot from your backup PG. All these guys below Hill – which also includes Jodie Meeks, the 41st pick of the ’09 Draft – are sub 20 on the scale…some maybe sub 10. NBA driftwood.

So here’s where you try to combine the radically different mindsets and games of two completely different sets of players. One is a group of 5 guys who have 69 yrs experience, 33 All-Star Games, 8 titles, and 578 career playoff games between them…while the other group is just wondering if they’ll still be in the league in a couple years, roster filler to hopefully cover over a minimum of cracks in team’s Hall of Fame Armor (1st crack – Nash’s leg). There’s one guy in the middle – Jordan Hill – and no surprise, he’s the one who was a recent lottery pick (8th overall in 2009), not a 2nd round afterthought. Remember, most 2nd rounders don’t make the league, yet this unbalanced roster strategy relies on them for key bench minutes.

Let’s look at the mindsets of the two groups, starting with the stud veterans. How bright is the fire really burning vs. the physical and mental grind ahead? 38 yr old Nash is hurt already, while Kobe is playing at sub 100% right from the start, already with a highlight reel of glares, sneers, and snappy comments that expose the grind of his 17th go-round in the Asssociation – exactly half his life now. They all know the roster is full of crap (besides Hill) beyond them, so as old, sore, tired, and hurt as they are, it’s up to them. They’d love to play Kobe 30-32 min, if not less, but they can’t afford to, he’s at 37. Artest is playing 35 min/night! He’s a 15-20 min guy off the bench, at best, in his 14th yr in the league.

Also…these megastars know multi-millions$$$, 5 year fat contracts, big houses, multiple houses, all-star parties, etc… A sense of entitlement easily creeps in, and you see it on the floor. Arguing calls/non-calls rather than hustling back, casual transition defense – these are hallmarks of a team not hungry enough to go out and seize games, seize wins, a top seeding, playoff series’, and a title. This has 2004 written all over it, but I’m not sure they’ll get that far. That team and bench was built incredibly similarly, but led by Fisher, Devean George, Medvedenko, and Kareem Rush, the bench was better. And that wasn’t a pretty bench.

Now let’s see the bench mindset. They can’t even comprehend the superstar mentality (except two-time All-Star Jamison), as they don’t even have starter ability (again, except Hill). Everyone wants a ring, but does it mean so much when you’re so buried in the shadows of the superstar quartet? They’re all very limited guys and they know it. I wonder how cohesion and unity are on this roster – and that definitely counts for something. They need at least one or two more guys like Hill – legit 15-20 min/night guys – to bridge the talent gap, especially considering the age of their megastars – an average age of 33 come playoff time, and this includes the ‘baby’ Dwight Howard (27 by then).

So to conclude, I just don’t see enough talent or cohesion from this team to compete. Throw in a coach who doesn’t fully command the respect of his aging stars, or have a clue about designing an offense around them, and it’s a recipe for major disappoint in the Land of Purple & Gold.

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