Kobe Bryant, Lakers’ Championship Chase Could Get Ugly for Rest of NBA

The reasons why the Los Angeles Lakers would not repeat flew off the sports editorial runway like planes at LAX.

Ron Artest was too crazy. He took so many "what the hell were you thinking" shots that it was clear he wasn't thinking.

Artest would shoot the squad into the abyss. He connected on a paltry 30 percent of his field goal attempts for most of the postseason.

Andrew Bynum was too banged up to make a difference. Medical staffers drained his knee twice in the NBA Finals alone. Some wondered if head coach Phil Jackson needed to shut him down. Some thought Bynum should have cancelled his comeback to undergo the necessary knee operation in March.

One of Kobe Bryant's ailing body parts would fail him. He dealt with ankle sprains, a hip flexor, a groin strain, the flu, and the wear and tear of 14 NBA seasons.

A physical frontline presence on some team would overpower Pau Gasol. The Phoenix Suns limited his effectiveness in two games with extended use of a zone defense, the Oklahoma City Thunder's leaping bigs swatted more of his looks than anyone else did, and the Boston Celtics' bigs, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, and Rasheed Wallace, bumped and banged him until his glitzy field goal percentage nosedived into the 40s.

Russell Westbrook would torch Derek Fisher and embarrass him into retirement. Deron Williams would do the same. Ditto for Steve Nash. Ditto for Rajon Rondo or Ray Allen. Yeah, he's heard that before.

The critics could have made a worthy argument when Fisher was shooting in the low 30s in one of the worst campaigns of his career. My B/R colleague, Andrew Ungvari, said in a midseason column that when Fisher fired a triple, he would look to see which Laker would be there to grab the miss.

Lamar Odom was lucky. Thanks for that one, Amar'e Stoudemire. Lucky in the first two rounds? No. Not very good? Yes. His highest scoring output in the ...

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