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Lakers have little to be thankful for this season

Kobe Bryant

The Thanksgiving holiday may offer some perspective for Laker fans or anyone else whose happiness depends on the outcome of a sports contest. 

Any problems people had with the Lakers' disappointing playoff showing last season or the current NBA lockout really mean nothing compared with real-world problems — lost jobs, a sagging economy, maybe some health issues. 

But I'm not here to preach from a soapbox, because everyone with common sense knows the difference. I'm here to acknowledge that in the purest sense of what the Lakers accomplished this past season, they have little to be thankful for. Of course, the organization's history with 16 NBA championships and 23 Hall-of-Famers should usually give Laker fans some pause before griping about a premature playoff exit. But there are legitimate concerns.

Rarely does ownership become a problem with Jerry Buss' leadership. But from the team laying off at least 20 employees during the lockout and Jim Buss taking a more active role in basketball-related decisions, many wonder whether franchise is losing its way. The most immediate answer involves Mike Brown, whose ability to manage egos, most notably Kobe Bryant's, will define his success more than any previous coaching experience guiding the Cleveland Cavaliers to one NBA Finals and two Eastern Conference Finals appearances. 

The pervasive optimism surrounding the Lakers' talent also seems zapped. Sure, they are locked into long-term contracts with Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum. But that's exactly part of the problem. All of them are facing the tail-end of their careers, and the expensive price tags on those deals prevent the Lakers from making any serious off-season moves. With a team clamoring to upgrade at point guard or save up for the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, the options appear limited.

Then, of course, there's the NBA lockout. Any new collective-bargaining agreement will severely hinder the Lakers' normal approach in making smart and calculated risks, while absorbing high luxury taxes. Still, that painful reality needs to happen sooner or later. Finances aside, this team remains equipped to win a title. Losing a season not only evaporates that chance, it adds a year of father time to a veteran-laden team. 

But don't worry about those problems on Thanksgiving Day. Simply enjoy turkey and watch football. It'll allow you to count your blessings and enjoy a sport that realized the importance of not missing a season.

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— Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Photo: Kobe Bryant is congratulated by fans in New Orleans after eliminating the Hornets in Game 6 of the NBA playoffs on April 28, 2011. The Lakers advanced to play Dallas but were swept by the eventual-champion Mavericks. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

 
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