The Los Angeles Lakers have obviously been a very successful franchise through the years and they are loved or hated by most sports fans, but, their quest for a 3rd consecutive championship and 4th consecutive Finals appearance appear to be in question so far this season. The Lakers have not been able to beat the better teams in the league and on many occasions they have been beaten badly, even on their home court by sub .500 teams ! Of course, this is a concern for Lakers management, players and fans. The team gives the standard answer of "we are working on it and trying to improve" or "we are a veteran team and we will be fine". The truth is they will not be fine because their superstar Kobe Bryant has many ailments that are not healing because he has to do so many things for the team on a nightly basis and rarely gets a chance to rest. His off season knee surgery is still a concern for the team along with finger injuries that have caused him to alter the shooting technique that he is accustomed to. Pau Gasol took the summer off to rest for this season but with Kobe injured and Bynum out with his own knee surgery Pau was needed to carry the load for the Lakers in the early part of the season and it took it's toll on him, at mid season Gasol was really slowing down and his production and energy took a big hit. Derek Fisher was resigned this off season but his contract is worth less than Steve Blake who was aquired as a free agent back up PG so it was obvious the team realizes Fisher is not what he used to be but Kobe and Fish came into the league together and Kobe wanted to keep him around, well, Fisher's minutes are starting to reduce and Blake and Shannon Brown are getting the important 4th qtr minutes now. Derek has not been looking to shoot this year and his defense has been very poor, but, the bigger issue is he is only averaging 2.7 assists per game so his contribution to the team is minimal.
The Lakers welcomed the All Star break in their home city of LA and Kobe was named MVP but after the game in which he played 30 minutes he said that he was exhausted and reached his 3 dunk quota, his feet hurt and showed that the enormous amount of minutes he has logged in his career are catching up to him. Bryant has now played more games and more minutes than Michael Jordan did in his entire career including his 2 comebacks. The last 2 years Kobe has had sub par Finals performances because he had to do so much for the team all year and did not have much left to give come Finals time. Fortunately the team stepped up and helped him win back to back titles with timely shots and good defense. Those attributes are not there for the team this year. Kobe, Pau and Lamar Odom are the only consistent players on the team and the depth they thought they added this off season has not been there due to inconsistency and injuries. Theo Ratliff and Matt Barnes are currently out with injuries, Barnes is expected back soon but Ratliff may miss the rest of the season. Bynum has had significant lost time due to injuries yet again this season. Steve Blake has not proven to be the answer at point guard to replace the aging Fisher and Shannon Brown can be a highlight reel on the floor but is not a consistent scorer off the bench. Ron Artest has become a huge disappointment this season, his defense has suffered enormously, his shooting has been terrible and his focus has been questioned on many instances. The Lakers shopped him for trade possibilities but no teams have interest in him because of his reduction in production on the court and his salary.
LA has known for a few years now that the point guard position is an issue for them, the league is full of very fast point guards that can break down a defense and either get the big men in foul trouble or create an open shot for a perimeter player, this has happened to the Lakers many, many times this season. So, you might think that a player such as Deron Williams, Aaron Brooks, Chris Paul or even Earl Boykins would be of great interest to the Lakers since they are all available for trade but as of yet they have not made a move to aquire any of these players, why ? I have no idea but I know this, if they don't make a move like that they will not be in the NBA Finals this year. There are too many good teams now and most have an exceptional point guard that can do it all like San Antonio's Parker and OKC's Westbrook that can get their own shot, rebound and dish the ball with the best of them. Kobe is asked to do too much each game and Pau does all he can but it will not be enough this year. They had a chance to aquire Carmelo Anthony but did not, he would have taken a lot of pressure off Kobe because he too can get his own shot and is a great closer. Phil will be gone next year and Kobe and Fisher will be one more year older, Artest will probably be gone and who knows if Andrew Bynum will ever be healthy enough to play an entire season. There are many questions to be answered in the Lakers future and if they don't address it soon they will be a team that begins a rebuilding process that could have been avoided.