When the final buzzer sounded on the Lakers’ season this past Sunday, it signified the abrupt and shocking end to both the Lakers pursuit of their 3rd straight championship and Phil Jackson’s illustrious coaching career.
What became apparently clear in the Mavericks series is that this Lakers roster, while immensely talented, had gotten old and tired. While the Lakers still held the advantages of size and length, it wasn’t enough to offset or hide their lack of foot speed and athleticism.
The age and mileage on the roster did not just creep up on the team but actually appears that it was by design. This past off-season, Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchak focused on experience in the free agents he pursued and seemed to have little interest in either retaining the youth on the current roster or pursuing younger players.
The Lakers’ allowed 24 year old Jordan Farmar to leave via free agency and essentially replaced him with 31 year old Steve Blake.
The Lakers signed 31 year old Matt Barnes, but only after 34 year old Raja Bell had turned them down to sign with the Utah Jazz.
Needing depth at the center position due to the constant uncertainty with Bynum’s health, the Lakers signed 38 year old Theo Ratliff.
In a mid-season move, the Lakers traded away 27 year old Sasha Vujacic and got a 35 year old Joe Smith in return.
At this point, I think it is fair for some to question if Mitch overvalued experience and undervalued what youthful players like Farmar and Vujacic brought with their young legs and energy to the team.
The season is over now and the retooling begins. It is strikingly clear now that an infusion of youth and athleticism is needed to correct the problems with the old and rickety roster.
What is not needed, as the great Magic Johnson suggests, is for the roster to be “blown up” like it was some condemned building that house miscreants and rampant with drug activity.
The core of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom is still formidable. This roster, even with its weaknesses won 57 games and went on a 17-1 run towards the end of the regular season. The team as currently constructed was still considered to be the favorites to win the championship.
A shooter here, a young and energetic slasher there, and the Lakers’ roster can be completed rejuvenated.
Next: New Coach, New Offense?
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