2012 NBA Playoff Postmortem: Team Los Angeles

Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul wanted to play together. Well, maybe
they can spend the offseason together because they're both
eliminated from the NBA Playoffs.
(image from Sina.com)

Would’ve been really different had David Stern not pulled the plug on the Chris Paul-to-Lakers deal, right?

Would’ve been different had Lamar Odom stayed with the Lakers, right?

Would’ve been different had Chauncey Billups not gotten injured, right?

Would’ve been different had Brian Shaw been the Lakers’ coach, right?

Would’ve been different had Derek Fisher stayed, right?

Would’ve been different had Paul and Blake Griffin not been hobbled by injuries, right?

Yeah, right.

Now the whole City of Angels can spend the long summer thinking of how things would’ve been different had this or that happened or not happened.

Now the whole City of Angels can watch while sitting on sun-soaked couches as someone else (please just not the Heat) takes the grandest prize on the grandest stage of basketball.

And then ponder on what to make of the remains, and what they’ll have to shake up to make things better next season.

Both the Clippers and the Lakers really went through a tough, truncated season – a dramatic season.

There was the CP3 thing, the Odom thing, the Fisher thing, the Metta World Punch thing, the Mike Brown-can’t-stand-up-to-Kobe thing, the Billups injury, the Andrew Bynum-is-a-brat thing, and a handful of other things that distracted and derailed both franchises from the true north – an NBA Championship.

Instead, both teams were bounced by the most ironic of pairings – an over-the-hill San Antonio squad defying its collective age, and an up-and-coming Oklahoma City quintet hungry for championship glory.

So where to now, Los Angeles?

Let’s start with the Clips. The really essential (superstar) pieces are still there – Paul and Griffin – but a host of other guys might not come back. Randy Foye, Nick Young, Kenyon Martin, Chauncey Billups, and Reggie Evans are all certainly going to be courted (okay, maybe not Evans) by other teams when free agency begins, and, given how, at $7.2M, Blake Griffin is just the fifth-highest on the Clips’ payroll next season, there’s not a lot of cap space left with which to play. Still, with DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler, Eric Bledsoe, and Ryan Gomes locked in to back-up CP3 and Griffin, things don’t look too shabby. And if Mo Williams does exercise his player option (he won’t get paid higher elsewhere anyway), then the Clippers can still play at a really high level.

Mo Williams should be wise enough to know that
the best choice for him is to stay.
(image by the AP)
But who’ll coach them? Chances are, current coach Vinny Del Negro is on his way out, especially with the Spurs sticking a broom up his, but can the Clips find someone else? Do they have enough money to throw at someone else for that matter? I still think the Clips should be a playoff-level team next year, but don’t count on them crossing over to become a title contender.

And now with the Lakers. Here’s what will happen. Somehow, some way, it’ll all be blamed on Pau Gasol. They’ve been wanting to cut him loose for two or three seasons now, and his on-again-off-again performance in the past few weeks hasn’t left much love left between him and Kobe, the fans, and the organization. But will he have any takers? He’s set to make $19M, and I doubt any team would be willing to pay that much for any European big guy not named Dirk Nowitzki. Despite this, expect LA to still find a way to say goodbye to the Spaniard.

When Pau Gasol (L) leaves, it's Andrew Bynum (R) who
stands to gain the most.
(image by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
So with him out, Bynum gets to have more shots. Kobe, too. Kobe will take more shots, you say? Yes, he will. Nobody will stop him. Not Metta. Not Bynum. Certainly not Mike Brown.

The only significant guys who aren’t guaranteed to return for the Lakers are Matt Barnes, Jordan Hill, Troy Murphy, and Ramon Sessions (unless he exercises his player option). That leaves the Lakers’ biggest weaknesses (PG and SF) still glaring weaknesses. The good news? A familiar friend named Lamar Odom might be available. They can make a play at him, but will he even consider going back? I say make Sessions sign his option, then dump him with Steve Blake and Gasol for a borderline-star PG on a non-playoff team like, say, DJ Augustin, Kyle Lowry, or maybe even the sidelined Ricky Rubio (yeah, terribly far-fetched). Of course, they could also trade away half their roster for Deron Williams and settle for spare parts thereafter.

The key is, for the past two seasons, it’s clear that the Lakers cannot remain an elite team without filling in their roster holes. And with Kobe entering his mid-30s, the window of opportunity is really closing down fast.

Game Recaps:

MIA over IND, 101-93
Facing the prospect of a third straight loss, the Heat were picked up by their two remaining stars. Instead of going home in a two-game hole, they'll head back to Miami with some much-needed mojo. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade scored 38 straight points in the middle of Game 4 on Sunday afternoon and the Heat battled for a 101-93 victory over the Indiana Pacers to even their Eastern Conference semifinal. James had 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists while Wade added 30 points, nine boards and six helpers -- their best performance since Chris Bosh went down in Game 1. James and Wade scored 48-of-50 points for the Heat between the latter stages of the second quarter and early in the fourth. Udonis Haslem picked up some of the slack down the stretch, scoring eight of his 14 points in the final quarter. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Miami. Danny Granger led the Pacers with 20 points, Darren Collinson had 16 off the bench, Paul George scored 13 and Roy Hibbert chipped in 10 with nine rebounds. Hibbert and David West, who scored eight, both played in foul trouble.

SAS over LAC, 102-99
Tim Duncan led six Spurs in double digits with 21 points and nine rebounds as San Antonio completed the series sweep of the Los Angeles Clippers, 102-99, in the Western Conference semifinals. Tony Parker added 17 points, Danny Green and Gary Neal finished with 14 points apiece and Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter each contributed 11 points for San Antonio, which earned its second consecutive series sweep in these playoffs and won its 18th straight game overall, including the regular season. The Spurs will next face the winner of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers series in the Western final. Oklahoma City holds a 3-1 advantage in that series. Chris Paul had 23 points and 11 assists to pace the Clippers, while Blake Griffin, who received four stitches in his lip at halftime after colliding with Ginobili's shoulder late in the second quarter, finished with 21 points and five rebounds.

OKC over LAL, 106-90
By the time the "Beat LA!" chants picked up in the fourth quarter Monday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder had all but accomplished what fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena were urging them to do. The only matter in question was the final margin, and it was already clear it wouldn't be close. Indeed, the Thunder are headed back to the Western Conference Finals after knocking off Kobe Bryant's Lakers in five games. Russell Westbrook scored 28 points, Kevin Durant had 25 and the Thunder beat the Lakers, 106-90, in the semifinals clincher. Proving what Bryant and others had said -- that they were the quicker team -- the Thunder survived 42 points from the Lakers star and moved on to face the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. Bryant scored 15 of his points in the third quarter, but none of his teammates had that many in the game. Pau Gasol finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds, Metta World Peace scored 11 and Andrew Bynum had 10 points. The second-seeded Thunder needed just nine games to knock off the defending champion Mavericks and the battle-tested Lakers, but their next opponent is even hotter. The Spurs have swept the Jazz and Clippers for an 18-game winning streak that is nearly six weeks old. Game 1 of the conference finals is set for Sunday in San Antonio.

BOS over PHI, 101-85
With about two minutes left, and his team safely in line for the win, Brandon Bass walked off the parquet floor at TD Garden to a standing ovation. Needing a big performance to wash away the taste of a bad loss, the Celtics got one from an unlikely source. Bass scored 18 of his 27 points in the third quarter and the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 101-85, Monday night to take a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. The Celtics, behind a 14-2 run led by Bass, turned a six- point deficit into a six-point lead in about five minutes in the third quarter and rolled the rest of the way to earn some revenge for Philly's comeback in Game 4 last Friday. Kevin Garnett added 20 points, Paul Pierce had 16 and Rajon Rondo scored 13 with 14 assists in the win. Game 6 is Wednesday night in Philadelphia and Game 7 would be Saturday back in Boston, if necessary. Elton Brand led the Sixers with 19 points, just seven in the second half, and Lavoy Allen scored 12 off the bench.

Ray Allen and the Celtics rose to the occasion in Game 5
against the Sixers.
(image by Charles Krupa/AP)
MIA over IND, 115-83
The unpredictable Miami Heat orchestrated another dominating performance Tuesday to take a 3-2 series lead over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. After losing consecutive games with star forward Chris Bosh on the bench, the Heat have rebounded the last two games to look like the vaunted title contenders they were constructed to become. Two days removed from a herculean series-tying performance, the duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade went to work again in Game 5, combining for 58 points in a 115-83 thumping of the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers will look to slow down a Heat team that made a franchise playoff record 61 percent of its shots on Tuesday when the series shifts back to Indianapolis for Game 6 on Thursday. James scored 30 points to go with 10 rebounds and eight assists while Wade added 28 points in the rout. Shane Battier was an unlikely spark with 13 points and also helped limit David West to 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Danny Granger, Indiana's leading scorer in the regular season, scored 10 points before leaving with an ankle injury early in the third quarter.

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from Reuters, the Associated Press and the Sports Network.
Next Post »
0 Comment