Commentary

Can Lakers contend next season?

Debating whether L.A. can challenge in the West without making major changes

Originally Published: May 13, 2011
By Chris Broussard and Ric Bucher | ESPN The Magazine
LakersAndrew D. Bernstein/Getty ImagesCan L.A. win next season without big changes to its starting five?

The only thing Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard like to do more than report on the NBA is argue about the NBA. So we decided to combine those two skills for Insider's weekly One-on-One series, in which they'll debate the hottest topics in the association.

Question: Can the Los Angeles Lakers contend next season without making major changes?

BROUSSARD: I agree with Kobe Bryant that talk of the Lakers' demise is vastly overblown. While they will no longer be the favorite to win the West, the notion that they can't even contend with their current crew (plus a few minor tweaks) is bogus. Rick Adelman's name has come up as a candidate in their coaching search and I think he would do a great job of leading them back into title contention next year.


BUCHER: Remember when Kobe talked about believing the Lakers could still beat the Dallas Mavericks despite being down 3-0, prefacing his remarks by saying, "I may be nuts, but …"? Well, clearly he's still delusional in suggesting there's really not a whole lot wrong with the Lakers -- as are you for agreeing with him.

They are certainly better than what they showed in getting swept by the Mavericks, but they have now entered that twilight the San Antonio Spurs went through the past few years. The general consensus seemed to be, "Oh, they're still formidable," and "If only they were healthy they'd be the same old Spurs." And what did we get? Three years and zero second-round victories. And why? Because they rode the same core, including a Tim Duncan who no longer was undeniably the best power forward in the game, and changed the pieces around it. More rest in the offseason, an improving Tony Parker to take up the slack, more judicious regular-season use of the aging stars -- yeah, that's the trick.

Only it wasn't. And that's where the Lakers are. Talk of Andrew Bynum taking up the slack for the aging stars is not all that different in expecting it from Parker. Kobe sounds much like Tim-may in thinking a summer with fewer playoff games is going to be an elixir. Let's face it: he and they are on the verge of a slow but steady descent without some dramatic changes. Thinking their ceiling is anything more than the second round if they stand pat suggests this year's result was a fluke rather than a foreseeable result.


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Ric Bucher

NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer