The Yellow Brick Road: How the Lakers Find Their Way Back To Oz

Across the board, the Lakers seem to be shadows of their former championship selves;   but nowhere is this more evident than in their MVP (no, not that one!).

Make no mistake Gasol, not Bryant, is the team’s number one option and he must continue to be for them to be successful.  When the offense flows through Gasol a domino-effect of good things occur: the triangle runs to its second and third options, which then leads to better shot selection and floor balance, and culminates in better transition and half court defense.

However, when Gasol goes into cowardly lion mode and the Lakers revert to a Kobe-centric attack, it typically leads to a plethora of outside shots and one-on-one play that gets the team into trouble on defense; and it’s all down-hill from there.  If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is exactly what has been happening ever since Bynum’s return.

In the Lakers losses this season, Gasol has been passive which leads to the  offense reverting to an outside-in, instead of inside-out attack.   Doing so robs the team of its greatest advantage, its size.  For the Lakers to return to their former-championship selves, they must not go away from what works best, and Gasol must be their focal point and Bryant must be the closer.

Then there’s the Lakers’ defensive specialist, Ron Artest.  Paragraphs could be inserted here to describe Artest’s ineffectiveness this season.  Instead, let’s just say that the Ron Artest that we all feared arrived this season, and the one that saved Game 7 of last year’s Finals is long gone.

The Scarecrow has lost his brain and has played so out of whack this season that recently team officials finally admitted that trading him before the deadline remains an option. Now, if only there was a market for him.

Artest’s mixture of zero production on either end of the floor combined with a remaining contract of three years and $21.8 million make him pretty much unmovable.  Last season Artest was able to come up big when the team needed him most.  This season he seems more lost than ever.  For the Lakers to return to their former championship selves, Artest must find his focus and provide the team with the tough minded, defensive presence only he can bring.

Finally, there’s the Lakers bench and supporting cast.  Once dubbed the Bench Mob, then the Killer B’s, they have sinced morphed into a version of Oz’s Tinman.  One needs only to have seen the Lakers recent effort verses the league’s worst team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, to see that the team’s role players are playing without any heart.

Their downfall can be traced all the way back to the failure of one small knee ligament. That injury, to reserve small forward Matt Barnes, not only disrupted the flow and chemistry of the bench but also that of the starting unit as well.  With Barnes out, the starting unit lost its only viable option when Artest’s checks out of reality and into la-la land.

Similarly, minus Barnes, the bench loses not only its chemistry but, also, the game changing mixture of athleticism and change-of-pace speed needed to off set the starting unit’s shall we say, more methodical approach.

Without Barnes, the second unit offense has turned into the Shannon Brown Show; and while that might have been acceptable had Brown managed to remain consistent after his hot start, instead what we are left with is a bench even more broken than the starting unit.

Thankfully, Barnes is set to return very soon which should provide just the sort of lift the Lakers need.

The starting unit will have an energy guy off the bench able to spell both Kobe Bryant and Aretst, and the bench should receive some much needed balance that should also benefit Steve Blake and Lamar Odom.   For the Lakers to return to their championship-selves, Barnes must provide the Lakers with a much needed infusion of energy and hustle, both of which have been lacking since his departure.

Next: The Wizard of Oz

You May Also Like

Los Angeles D-Fenders Hire Phil Hubbard As New Head Coach

[new_royalslider id=”315″] While fans continue to wait for the Byron Scott to…

Grading Out Each Of The Los Angeles Lakers’ Offseason Moves

The Los Angeles Lakers went into the offseason determined to make changes to their struggling team after winning a franchise-worst 17 games during the 2016-2017 NBA season…

Byron Scott Explains His Approach To D’Angelo Russell’s Development

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott has taken his fair share of criticism in regards to the development of their 2015 No. 2 NBA draft pick D’Angelo Russell this season…

Lakers News: Rob Pelinka Says No One Can Approach Kobe Bryant’s Attention To Detail

The work ethic of former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is the stuff of NBA legend. The future Hall-of-Famer…