Los Angeles Lakers: New Piece of the Puzzle Just Doesn’t Fit

Last year's magical run left Laker fans spoiled. No major riffs between players, no lapse in effort, and every player knew their role and embraced it.

This year's squad just isn't the same.

Kobe Bryant is the same dude. He can put up 25 in his sleep. He knows exactly what it takes to win and has the determination and drive to do it. I loved hearing that he worked on his post moves all summer with Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon.

He knows he doesn't have the lift he used to when he was posterizing players left and right. Bryant's game is still just as effective with mid-range jumpers, fade-aways, and up-and-unders. He epitomizes the way an aging super-star should play.

He isn't the problem. Neither is Lamar Odom. His rebounding off the bench kills opposing second teams. He is averaging just under 10 boards in addition to his 10 points a game on 46 percent shooting. While Mr. Kardashian may have grabbed a few headlines in the offseason, he has been all business this season.

How about Pau Gasol? His numbers don't lie...17 points and 11 rebounds a game is nothing to sneeze at. His impressive 53 percent shooting shows that his shot selection has been superb. No problems with Mr. Gasol.

The emergence of Andrew Bynum has been fun to watch. He went from an 18-year-old softy to a legit third-banana on a Championship-caliber team. Problem is, he still can't shake the injury bug that has plagued him his entire career. A healthy Bynum is a necessity for the 2010 Lakers run.

Will he be healthy? That's the $100,000 question.

And the million dollar question? The one and only Ron Artest.

The man can play, that's obvious. He used to be the best defender in the entire NBA. Today he is still in the Top 10.

Problem is, Artest can't seem to find his comfort level in Phil Jackson's triangle offense. Watching him out there makes me think he doesn't understand the basic bal...

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