After winning two consecutive NBA titles under head coach Phil Jackson and suffering an ugly playoff exit last season against the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers have made another early exit in the postseason with the Oklahoma City Thunder being too much to handle in the second round.
Even though the Lakers had a chance to make this series 3-1 in their favor, Los Angeles collapsed in the fourth quarter of both Game 2 and Game 4. After the loss in Game 4, the Lakers were done in this series without even knowing it.
Once the Lakers were officially knocked out of the playoffs after the Game 5 loss to the Thunder, Kobe Bryant was asked about his future and the future of the franchise via Reid Cherner of USA Today:
“I’m not fading into the shadows, if that’s what you’re asking. I’m not going anywhere…We’re not going anywhere. It’s not one of those things where the Bulls beat the Pistons and the Pistons disappeared forever. I’m not going for that (stuff).”
Obviously, Kobe has no intention of giving up or calling it career in the near future. That elusive sixth ring continues to drive the future Hall of Famer as he still believes that the Lakers have one more championship run left in the tank.
There will be plenty of questions and concerns to address throughout the NBA off-season for the Lakers with the futures of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in Los Angeles up in the air at this point. It remains to be seen whether or not the Lakers’ front office is ready to move on by trading one or both of their big men, but there’s a good chance one of them has played their last game in a Lakers’ uniform.
Another problem the Lakers’ front office will have to find an answer for in the off-season is the poor play off the bench. With no consistent offensive threat from the bench, Lakers coach Mike Brown had no solid option to turn to throughout the regular season or during the playoffs. This must change in order for the Lakers to be a contender next season and beyond.