As the disappointed sellout crowd filed out of Staples Center Sunday afternoon there were a lot of “good-byes” and chatter about the prospects for next season.
The Lakers hadn’t lost their first round playoff series to the Phoenix Suns but faced a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven test with the next game scheduled for Phoenix.
The 113-100 loss clearly illustrated why the Suns were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and the Lakers No. 7. The Suns have a far superior roster.
The Lakers chose to play at a fast tempo, which is the Suns’ game, and didn’t have the manpower to keep up.
The Lakers have had a problem all season containing the opponent’s point guard. It was such a problem that Coach Phil Jackson recently removed Smush Parker from the starting lineup. But the replacement, Jordan Farmar, is a rookie with offensive skills but is weak defensively.
So it was no surprise that basketball’s premier point guard, Steve Nash, drove through the Laker defense at will.
Nash, the two-time MVP of the NBA, had a career high 23 assists – one shy of the NBA playoff record shared by Magic Johnson and John Stockton.
Nash controlled the tempo and got his teammates easy shots, and even 31 points by Kobe Bryant couldn’t keep the Lakers close.
So what do the Lakers do? They clearly need a talent upgrade.
The name circulating in the pressroom was Kevin Garnett, whose considerable talent is being wasted on a poor Minnesota team.
Garnett has honored his contract and not sought a trade through several disappointing seasons. But he was extremely disappointed this season when the Timberwolves failed in an effort to trade for guard Allen Iverson.
The story is told of the Timberwolves’ owner having a private plane standing by to bring Iverson to Minnesota. Instead, Iverson was sent by Philadelphia to Denver.
Garnett owns a home in Malibu, and it’s being suggested that Bryant should visit there often this summer. Perhaps he could convince the 6-foot-9 Garnett to force a trade to the Lakers. That would give them another star player and Bryant wouldn’t have to try for 50 points a game, something he did regularly late in the season. Beyond that, the Lakers will have $20 million to spend on free agents, a far greater number than last summer. However, the players they hoped would be available – LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire and Yao Ming – all removed themselves from the market by signing new contracts with their original teams.