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Keeler: Many to blame for Lakers' troubles

Tommy Keeler

As a Boston Celtics' fan it gives me great joy to see what the Los Angeles Lakers are going through.

Don't get me wrong, the Celtics are not very good this year, but outside of a delusional Celtics' fan, I don't think anybody expected them to do real well.

The Lakers had very high expectations. They went out and picked up both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, and everyone in Hollywood thought they would be bringing the Larry O'Brien Trophy back to L.A.

Now the Lakers are 15-16 and looking like anything but a championship contender. Kobe Bryant has called out his teammates several times, and they have already fired one head coach and the season is still young.

The big questions seems to be who's to blame for the Lakers' woes? I think there's plenty of blame to go around.

After the Lakers lost to the Philadelphia 76ers 103-99 on Tuesday night, Bryant said the team was old and that was the big problem. Bryant is right. They are old, but I don't think it's as simple as that.

To me the biggest problem all season has been the system the Lakers have run. First under former coach Mike Brown the Lakers were running the Princeton-style offense. This offense did not sit well with some of the players, and it didn't seem to suit the strength of many of them, including Bryant.

Of course, they fired Brown after a 1-4 start. I didn't think it was a bad move, although five games into the season is a little quick. There had been a lot of talk that they would hire Phil Jackson as coach, but instead they went with Mike D'Antoni. That might have been the worst move the Lakers made in the last year.

D'Antoni's offense requires a lot of shots to go up, and a fast-paced style of play, the exact opposite of what the Lakers were doing under Brown. I think the Lakers needed something in the middle, which I think Jackson would have given them. D'Antoni's offense is fine, but it's suited for a younger, quicker team which the Lakers are not.

How anyone can expect an older team like the Lakers to be successful just running up and down the floor all game is beyond me. It's not working, and I don't think it will.

The offense is doing OK -- the Lakers are fifth in scoring in the league. The problem is the defense, where they rank 25th in the league. They are simply too old to be able to get back on defense and shut teams down.

Bryant is averaging 30.3 points per game. He is playing like the All-Star he is. I'm not a fan of Bryant, but I do think he's a good player. I also think it will be tough for him to keep this up all season, and right now it looks like he will have to for the Lakers to even be a playoff contender.

At this point I'm not sure making another coaching change will help the Lakers, although it wouldn't surprise me if they make one. The pressure is on in L.A. The fans expect the team to win all the time.

The Lakers remind me a little of the New York Yankees. I think the Lakers have the same problem as the Yankees -- they keep trying to win with older players and it's not going to work. Bryant doesn't have that many years left in the NBA, and neither does Steve Nash, Pau Gasol or Metta World Peace. Then what are the Lakers going to do? Howard is a good player, but I'm not sure you can build a franchise around him. Not to mention there's no guarantee he'll even be back with the team next season.

To make things even worse for the Lakers, they are no longer the best basketball team in L.A. The Los Angeles Clippers have the best record in the NBA, and are looking more and more like a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. On top of that, the Clippers are young and play an exciting brand of basketball. Basically, they are everything the Lakers wish they could be.

Management in the Lakers' organization has made the mistake of having that we have to win now attitude, which hasn't worked out well. They haven't made good decisions in trades, free agency or the draft, and it's hurt them.

The Lakers have won plenty over the years, and I certainly don't feel sorry for them. I'm sure they will be back soon enough, but for now I expect them to stay down for a few years. Everything goes in cycles and as a Celtics' fan I'm going to sit back and enjoy it.

Contact assistant sports editor Tommy Keeler Jr. at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com


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