The Lakers ended the season and Phil’s career with an embarrassing series against the Dallas Mavericks. The following are grades of each player’s performance:
Kobe Bryant: B
Kobe was one of the few that bright spots in this series against the Mavs. He came to play where most did not averaging just under 25 points per game. The lack of outside shooting allowed the Mavericks to collapse their defense and pack the paint which made it difficult for Bryant to get to the basket and forced him to shoot from the outside and midrange where he still managed to shoot nearly 46%. Although Kobe had a solid series, where he failed was finishing games as the Lakers gave up leads down the stretch in games 1 and 3. This is when Kobe is supposed to be at his best yet Dirk Nowitzki was the one who came out as “King of Clutch” in this series. The game 1 buzzer beater miss by Kobe was a sign that the Lakers just didn’t have it this year.
Pau Gasol: C-
Pau was horrible against the Hornets in round 1 where I gave him a D+ for his performance. He was only slightly better against the Mavericks (thus the rise in his grade) but was essentially the root of the Lakers breakdown on many levels. Although better statistically on the offensive end Pau was largely rendered ineffective by Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas defense. Pau was continually pushed off the block, stripped, and swatted as he shot a lowly 42% from the field. Pau’s defense was even more pathetic as he was eaten alive on the pick-and-roll, late on rotations leaving wide open threes, lacked the fortitude to box out, didn’t protect the rim, and was continually scorched by Dirk. When Pau was on the floor Nowitzki shot 60% versus 46% when Pau was on the bench. Although not sure of the validity in the claim that Pau’s girlfriend left him, there was definitely some mental issue going on with the Euro Player of the Year as Gasol lacked the grit, determination, and the heart necessary for a championship run. Not Fisher’s leadership, nor Kobe’s glares, nor Phil’s punches could wake Pau from his funk which eventually worked it’s way into the locker room as “trust issues.” Basketball is a team game so no one person is to blame for the Lakers demise, but Pau’s distracted and gutless performance throughout the playoffs was as large a contributor as any other player.
Andrew Bynum: B+
It’s a shame Bynum will be largely remembered for his inexcusable cheap shot on J.J. Barea in the fourth quarter of game 4 and then ripping off his jersey as he walked off the court because Andrew put together a strong performance through the series as he shot 52% and continually punished the Mavs inside. As one of the few bright spots for the Lakers in this series, Bynum became a focal point of the offense as Pau continued to struggle and really shined in games 2 and 3. Although Bynum deserves a better grade for his play, the Barea cheap shot has tainted the Lakers franchise and his contributions on the court. That said I understand Bynum’s frustration with seeing Barea and others cut up the Lakers defense and get to the rim over and over again as a result of the “trust issues” he was speaking of. I just wish he would have dished out a hard foul in game 2 rather than wait until the series was over to intimidate the Mavericks.
Lamar Odom: B
Before game 2 I posted a Keys to game 2 v Dallas where I outlined the importance of Lamar’s role in this series noting how he must attack and be an offensive threat as no one the Mavericks have can handle Odom’s varied skill set. Lamar followed that up with six points on 3-12 shooting and nine boards in game 2′s shellacking. Lamar had an overall decent series shooting over 45% for 11.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and did a better job guarding Dirk than Pau did, but Lamar’s horrible 0-4 shooting from 3-point land was part of the plague infecting the Lakers. The 6th man award recipient was completely overshadowed by the Mavericks’ 6th man Jason Terry who torched the Lakers from the 3-point line. Lamar needed to be great but he was just ok and the frustrated body check on Dirk in game 4 didn’t help his cause.
Ron Artest: C
Ron had a really strong series against the Hornets in round 1 but it didn’t really carry over to the Dallas series. He played some decent defense but shot a horrid 32% from the field and 20% from the 3-point line. In the process of losing in game 2 old skool Ron Ron came out to play with a clothesline on J.J. Barea that sent Artest to the locker room early and resulted in a game 3 suspension from the league. This was a precursor to the building team frustration that reared it’s ugly head in game 4 with Lamar’s body check on Dirk and Bynum’s forearm shiver on Barea. To cap it off, Ron’s breakaway rim-rejection in game 4 was the final straw and the realization that all hope was lost.
Derek Fisher: C-
I’m sure Derek welcomed the relief of not having to chase a young quick point guard around the floor in this series but Fisher even made the legendary dinosaur J-Kidd look like he was in his prime. Derek shot 31% for the series and only 25% from behind the arc where we all waited for Derek to have his infamous clutch moment in this series but instead Derek’s defining moment was fouling Jason Terry at the end of game 3 when the Lakers were down by two and then following it up with a bad pass to Odom on the inbound play sealing the loss. Furthermore, Derek’s inability to rally his teammates under the challenges presented in this series are a sign that the captain’s inspirational voice has become weary.
Steve Blake: D
The backup point guard was even less effective against the Mavericks as J.J. Barea went absolutely nutty against the Killer B’s. Blake shot a horrid 23% from the field and an even more miserable 18% from three point land with his defining moment coming in game 2 where he went 0-5 and had two turnovers while looking completely lost on the court. There were high hopes for Blake coming into the season as many expected him to challenge for the starting point guard spot. Those hopes are gone.
Shannon Brown: C
Although Shannon managed to shoot over 50% for the series most of his contributions were lost in the barrage of the opposing bench as they made the Lakers bench look foolish time and time again. Brown’s untimely turnovers and stopping the offense to jack up shots only added more frustration for Lakers fans.
Matt Barnes: C
Another member of the bench that gave away games, Matt was mostly forgettable only shooting 35% for the series and shot a goose egg 0-6 from behind the arc. Matt grabbed some boards with his hustle but it would have been nice if he hit a few of those threes.
Trey Johnson, Luke Walton, Joe Smith: NC
These three receive a Non Complete for their limited action in the series. Most of their time came at the end of the game 4 blowout and was irrelevant, but I did want to mention that Luke Walton went 0-2 and managed two turnovers in a little over four minutes of play. Hope that $5 million you made this year while sitting on the bench sits well with you.
Phil Jackson: F
As Phil did the walk of shame to the locker room after the game 4 loss one can’t help but feel this season was a massive failure and a missed opportunity. For the Buss family it’s championship or bust and they know that Kobe’s dominating years are dwindling down so Mitch and Jerry assembled a top notch roster to help Phil take them to the promise land. But even with the highest payroll and most talent in the league Phil failed to motivate, keep his team engaged, strategize, and win. He was out-coached for most of round 1 against Monty Williams, and again completely out-coached by Rick CarlisleÂ in round 2 against the Dallas. The Mavericks repeatedly shredded the Lakers defense for layups and wide open jumpers and through four games we never saw any defensive adjustment to take care of this problem. Same thing game in and game out allowing a record breaking 3-point performance from their opponents. Phil couldn’t get Pau on track with his mind games and even his barking and punching in game three fell on def ears as the team was splintered and fragile. For all of the praise Phil gets for managing players and egos his incense induced hippy approach failed as there were clearly “trust issues” going on in their embarrassing and shameful sweep out of the playoffs. Enjoy the mountains of Montana Phil…