After winning back-to-back NBA titles, the Lakers looked flat in the playoffs last season. Pau Gasol looked flat. The Dallas Mavericks looked anything but flat, they were playing smart and passionate ball. The result was Dallas unceremoniously sweeping the champions aside.
That led some Lakers fans — a fan base that can have the disposition of a nervous poodle at times — to call for big changes.
Pau Gasol doesn’t see it that way. That’s what he told Brian Kamenetzky over at ESPNLosAngeles.com.
“It’s not that we have to change who we are. We are who we are, and I think we’re perfectly fine with that. We just have to make sure we work as hard as anybody in the league, or the hardest. Want it as bad as anybody, or the [most], and that’s it. Be on the same page. Those three things are the basics of success, as being champions and becoming champions. I think that’s what we do. It’s not about doing fundamentally, or even tactically– you can have the tactical strategy that you want, but you have to have the basics.”
There is one big change — Mike Brown is in and Phil Jackson is out as coach. That will mean changes in offensive and defensive philosophy. And a very different energy.
“Well, we haven’t had a chance to work with our new coach yet, but from the feeling I got, he comes in with a lot of energy, and a lot of passion, and wants to help this team continue to be successful. That’s a plus. I think that’s a good way to go.”
Here’s what it comes down to with the Lakers — will they play defense for Brown? That is the key. They didn’t for Jackson last playoffs. This lineup with Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum is going to score. Yes, they need to figure out the point guard spot now, but the offense will be there.
But will the Lakers buy into what Mike Brown sells? They don’t really have a choice, they don’t have a year to waste fighting change, they need to buy in from day one. And then they need to recommit to the defensive end. Do that, and the Lakers are again title contenders. Fail and their window closes fast.