What's next for the Lakers?
Marcus Henry | 4/12/2011, 4:35 p.m.
The prevailing wisdom is that if Kobe Bryant is healthy and motivated, the Lakers will be a favorite again.
That's partially true. While its certainly true that the Lakers won't go anywhere without Bryant, he needs a solid supporting cast to get over the top. Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom played big roles in the Lakers title run. So did Derek Fisher.
Ariza and Odom are free agents after this season. It's been reported that Odom would accept less money to stay with the Lakers. Ariza hasn't said as much, but it's also been reported that Lakers owner Jerry Buss is willing to pay the luxury tax to keep the team together. If all of that is true, look for the Lakers to be a strong contender in 2009-2010.
This team grew together during the season. Bryant was a little hard on some of his teammates during the season, but it paid off in the end. Ariza and Odom played well in the Final. Fisher, who already had a couple of big shots on his resume, hit two big ones in Game 5.
Andrew Bynum is expected to get better and Luke Walton has always played a big role.
All of that said, the Lakers made need to make another move. Sound crazy? Not really. The Celtics showed a lot of grit in their seven-game loss to Orlando. They played without Kevin Garnett and without valuable frontcourt reserve Leon Powe. That enabled Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Kendrick Perkins to expand their games. Both players did, which makes the Celtics a team to look out for next season.
And what about Cleveland? LeBron James was clearly upset after their loss to Orlando. The pressure will be on Danny Ferry to get James another player. Cleveland was reportedly in talks with Phoenix to get Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal is far from his prime, but he's still a top 3 center in the NBA. Teaming him with James makes Cleveland a contender.
Denver, New Orleans and Orlando will also be looking to knock off the Lakers. None of them are strong enough to beat the Lakers now, but given the right moves, each team could challenge.
Denver could use an offensive post player, so could the Hornets. Orlando needs to find a wing player who can get to the basket. if any of these teams can address their needs, the Lakers, Celtics and Cavaliers won't have it easy.