Yet Bynum also raised a key point: The Lakers were a work in progress all season long after Brown replaced 11-time NBA champion Jackson, requiring a dramatic adjustment in everything from a new offense to practice structure.
“I think we need a full training camp,” Bynum said. “We never really got adjusted to the system. A lot of the times we came out and we weren’t doing it together. I really think it’s going to depend on being able to close out quarters and close out games. All throughout the season we would give up leads and not close quarters, and it hurt a lot.”
The Lakers made other changes that hampered their championship hopes, trading valuable big man Lamar Odom for nothing when his feelings were hurt in the preseason. Los Angeles also dealt emotional leader Derek Fisher at the trade deadline while landing replacement Ramon Sessions and surprising big man Jordan Hill. Fisher is outmatched as a starting NBA point guard, but his leadership and five championship rings were missed.
Sessions has a player option for next season after a tantalizing but inconsistent debut, while most of the Lakers‘ reserves will be free agents. Los Angeles had one of the NBA’s least impressive benches, so a wholesale overhaul of the bottom of the roster couldn’t really hurt.
The Lakers also endured another year of the drama that seems inevitable for this high-profile franchise. In the last month alone, they dealt with Metta World Peace’s seven-game suspension for throwing a vicious elbow, Hill’s felony assault charge from his time in Houston, playoff hero Steve Blake’s Twitter death threats for missing one shot, and Magic Johnson’s declaration that Brown would be fired if the Lakers didn’t survive the first round.
All that upheaval is nothing new to Bryant, who got a concussion and a broken nose in the All-Star game. But leave it to the mercurial World Peace to declare the Lakers‘ plight might not be as terrible as many believe.
“I don’t feel that way, but I’m not the general manager,” World Peace said. “I don’t know how many rings Mr. Kupchak has, so I know he’s going to make the best decisions. He’s a competitor. He’ll do what it takes, but the players have to put in the time. The only way it’s going to happen is if we do it together. We have to be committed to each other, and this year we weren’t as committed collectively. That hurt us.”
AP Sports Writer Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
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