By Dennis J. Freeman
El Segundo, CA-The last two days for members of the Los Angeles Lakers have been 48 hours of somberness, reflection and what could have been thoughts as players went through their exit interviews at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.
After three straight years of playing in the NBA Finals, resulting in two titles, the Lakers fell short of their quest to make it four consecutive trips to the championship round.
That’s because the Dallas Mavericks whipped the Lakers in the second round of the playoffs, winning the best-of-seven series with a 4-0 advantage. On Tuesday and Wednesday, players met with the media after their exit interviews and sounded stunned that their season ended so quickly.
Rumors, speculation and innuendos suggesting why the team flamed out in the Western Conference semifinals were pretty much shut down by the players. Rumors that star players Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were on the outs were dismissed by the Black Mamba.
“It didn’t anger me as much as it made me laugh,” Bryant said. “People will reach for absolutely anything when we struggle. They’ll pull for any crap…it’s ridiculous.”
Gasol, who has received pointed criticism for his lackluster play during the postseason, admitted that the personal attacks stung.
“Obviously, I’ve heard a lot of things,” Gasol said. “It’s absolutely false all those stories. But nowadays you start a story on twitter or Facebook and all the social networks and it becomes true. If somebody’s asks me directly if this is true I would say, ‘No, it’s not true.’”
These are uncertain times for the Lakers. Coach Phil Jackson, who guided the Lakers to five championships in two coaching stints, won’t be back. Jackson, who has won 11 NBA titles combined with the Lakers and Chicago Bulls, has decided to end his Triangle offense reign in pursuit of greener pastures.
“It’s been a remarkable run; it’s been a very devastating loss,” said Jackson. “We have to accept that and move forward as a team. I’ve been humbled by this and know that they have to find another way to build that chemistry back and make this team move in the right direction as one.”
That means the Lakers have to run out and get a coach to keep them on the level their accustomed to playing. Another area of concern for the team is assessing player personnel. Personnel changes are more likely to happen than not given the fact the Lakers are lacking speed and athleticism on the perimeter, despite the core of the team of Bryant, Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum being in place.
The looming labor lockout between the league and the union makes matters even more clouded about what’s going to happen next with the Purple and Gold.
“We’re going into a season where we really don’t know what to expect,” said Bryant. “We don’t know who’s coming back. We don’t know who’s going to be coach. We don’t know if we’re going to have a season next year. There are so many question marks…We have a challenge and it is right in front of ourselves.
“You know we’ll have a coach that’s different than Phil at the helm. A lot of people probably don’t expect us to continue on winning without Phil as the head coach. That’s a challenge right there in itself. Then the window closing and us being done and that kind of talk…that stuff I’m sure we can latch on to pretty easily.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about social justice, civil rights, education, politics, and crime. He also covers the NFL, NBA, MLB as well as other sports. Based in Southern California, Dennis earned a journalism degree with a minor in criminal justice from Howard University. The real HU!!