Culver City Observer -

Lakers Surrender For This Season

Kobe’s Injury Leads To Change Of Plans


January 29, 2015

By Mitch Chortkoff

Sports Editor

All right, you win, we surrender.

Those words often come from battlefields. Today, they appear to be coming from the Lakers.

When Kobe Bryant underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a torn rotator cuff the Lakers adopted a plan for the upcoming months and most likely the rest of the season.

Instead of fielding a lineup they’d likely put on the court in a bid for a playoff berth they’re featuring a group of inexperienced players they’re hoping to develop for the future.

Translation: With only 12 wins in the first half of the season they know this will become their third straight one without winning a playoff game.

They’d lost nine consecutive games going into a Thursday meeting with Chicago which has Pau Gasol (remember him?).

Gasol would still be with the Lakers if he felt better about the way he was treated the last two seasons.

But he has admitted he left as a free agent because he became frustrated by lineup changes and trade rumors.

“Those things wore me down,’ he said.

Perhaps the Lakers were clearing salary cap space to sign other free agents. But none of the premier ones chose to play here. So here they are with a roster filled with kids trying to find their way.

And it’s going to be like that for awhile.

“I’m going to stay with this lineup for the next 15 or 20 games,” said Coach Byron Scott.

The lineup includes two young guards, Wayne Ellington and Jordan Clarkson. On Sunday Clarkson was assigned to Houston’s James Harden, a strong MVP candidate who scored 37 points.

“He had me speed up my game,” explained Clarkson

“That wasn’t good and I’ll learn from the experience.”

There’s also the matter of Ryan Kelly, drafted as a power forward, now starting at small forward.

The Lakers want him to make the adjustment, but it’s not the change they’d make in a championship drive.

General manager Mitch Kupchak early this season said the Lakers had a good chance of having a successful season.

If management actually believed that they have to be bitterly disappointed the way it has turned out.

Of course injuries have been a factor. Steve Nash, Bryant and Julius Randle are out for the season and Xavier Henry has been released.

But considering the strength of the Western Conference this season it’s hard to believe the Lakers could have finished in the top eight-- the teams who make the playoffs.

A lot of people bought season tickets in order to see Bryant lead the team even at age 36.

But Bryant has either missed games due to resting his injuries or shooting a career low 37 percent in the ones when he has played.

He has shown an ability to set up teammates for their shots, an ability many fans didn’t realize he had.

Sadly, though, he hasn’t had enough help to give the Lakers the successful season Kupchak said he expected.

So here we are at the end of January and we must wonder about next season.

The Lakers’ hope is to sign premier free agents and there are quite a few who’ll be available this summer.

But will they want to play for a team which hasn’t been a factor in the playoff race for three years?

The years of Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry Buss, championship banners and a younger Kobe are long gone.


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