After the Los Angeles Lakers successfully won back-to-back NBA championships in 2009 and 2010, they come up short in their quest for a three-peat, ultimately getting swept by a Dallas Mavericks squad that would go on to win their first title in franchise history.
The mood felt eerily similar for the Purple and Gold Monday night, as they were once again ousted by a team that many think also has a date with destiny involving the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But the conclusion of the 2012 season is sure to leave a far worse taste in the mouth of the Lakers—and plenty of questions.
Like, for starters, what’s going to happen with Pau Gasol? The Spaniard, believe it or not, averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game over the course of a regular season where he constantly found himself in the middle of trade talks and held under the media’s microscope. However, he had 4.2 field-goal attempts in the paint per game, which is the lowest in his career. And although Kobe Bryant may have been correct in scolding Gasol for once again not being more assertive with the ball come playoff time, I’m sure Gasol is probably sick of being publicly criticized by the Black Mamba on a regular basis.
And speaking of big men, what about Andrew Bynum? Although he still showed his lack of maturity at times, the 24-year-old had the best statistical season of his young career, with averages of 18.7/11.9/1.9, and, more importantly, he managed to stay healthy for the first time since playing all 82 games in his second season. If Dwight Howard was still on the table, would the Lakers still want to make that trade?
The Lakers also have to address what they are going to do with Matt Barnes, Jordan Hill and Troy Murphy (all unrestricted free agents) and their glaring dearth of young prospects/draft picks.
But possibly the Lakers’ biggest task heading into this offseason is to sit down with Bryant and figure out where the two sides stand. It’s no secret that Bryant was critical of several personnel moves the team made throughout the season. It’s also no secret that the 33-year-old Bryant isn’t getting any younger. Both sides need to reestablish the identity of this team moving forward if they are going to have any sort of success.