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Friday, January 22nd, 2010 at 9:00 am  |  66 responses

The Lakers’ Problematic ‘Soft’ Label

by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

In order to avoid giving anyone a psychological edge, Kobe Bryant hates nothing more than conceding that an opponent bothers (or even kind of worries) him. But, after the Cavs’ convincing season sweep of the Lakers last night, Bryant could not hide his frustrations.

And it all comes back to an issue this team had supposedly solved on its way to the championship last year.

Everyone now considers L.A. to be “soft” again, a label that drives Bryant up the wall. Following the game last night (during which Cleveland out-muscled them, especially on the inside), Kobe made it clear that this cannot remain the case if a title repeat is to be seriously considered.

From the Orange County Register:

For everyone who simply assumes the Lakers blasted that characterization of being soft to smithereens by beating an unready Orlando team last June, it’s not that simple. There are not just steps forward in life; there are steps back. Including the Christmas loss after which Jackson noted how Gasol withdrew after being floored early by Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers have looked in two losses against Cleveland’s physicality more like the team that got bounced around in the 2008 NBA Finals by Boston.

That’s why Kobe Bryant is already putting out the Jan. 31 game against Boston near the end of this long trip as a challenge to his team. “We’ll see how we respond to a physical team in Boston,” Bryant said. Bryant knows the truth: Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom are a wonderfully skilled crew in the front, but they don’t have innate nastiness. “That’s not part of our DNA,” Bryant said. “We have to step up and match that (physicality) and still play skillful basketball.”

Artest, brought in because the Lakers knew in-house that they needed more physical presence, played more like an unstable figure skater than a hockey goon Thursday night. LeBron James breezed his way to 37 points – including 12 points in the 6:22 he played in the fourth quarter.

Though only half joking (I think), Bryant added that he might choke his teammates at practice today. So, yeah, life in Laker-land won’t be pleasant for a while.

The old adage that championships are won in the trenches (or something to that effect) still holds true. And so far this season, even though they’re still the League’s best team, Pau Gasol and company don’t appear prepared to get down and dirty.

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  • Ken

    Somehow Artest doesn’t seem as tough a defender as he used to…

  • Bruno

    I think Ariza would match better against Lebron

  • http://www.youtube.com/ L

    Anyone know a tough post player for the Lakers?

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com TADOne

    Artest seems to have lost his edge.

  • http://myspace.com/brandnew bryan

    Which sucks because hes the only one who had an edge to begin with

  • buschfiya

    Paul Gasoft

  • Monday Night Live

    No-One can guard Lebron at this point( Not Ariza,Artest, or Mega-tron) he is simply too Strong,
    Fast and Better than everyone else. Maybe Kobe should guard him……

  • Tombomb

    ^ Karl Malone.. oh no wait..

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    Uhm……Kobe did try to guard him and got knocked around like a rag doll…..or a puppet.

  • http://www.jewelzlopez.com -Mas-

    Bryant, Gasol & Co. will walk soft all they way to the Championship.
    Ask KG, Superman, or any center in the West if they think Gasol is soft? IF they happened to say “yes” all Pau has to do is wave his finger (the one with the NBA ring) and say “nada de eso”. Not to mention Pau’s Olympic and FIBA hardware.
    -Mas-

  • James aka…

    I don’t see how the team is soft because they got smoked at a position not known for toughness. How many tough 3′s are there in the league? Lebron is as mentioned already, bigger and stronger than everyone who tries to guard him. If you put someone the same size on him, then he just runs (sometimes literally when he travels) around them like pilons. He’s averaging 30 7 and 8, so its not like this is a lakers issue. Gasol/bynum being weaker than Shaq or Z didn’t cause the lakers to lose last night. Lebron was efficient, and Kobe was not, and those two events determined the difference in a pretty close game. It’s not like when the Mavs folded against Golden state by 30 a night.

  • A.

    @-Mas-: Where were you 2 years ago when they were saying Pau was soft and at the end of the Finals it was Garnett waving the ring saying “si es la verdad” after repeatedly busting Pau’s behind?

  • http://slamonline.com donone23

    YOOO! F*CK THE FAKE SHOW!!
    PAU GASOFT IS A CHUMP, PLAIN AND SIMPLE

  • drewz

    best team in the league resides in cleveland

  • neaorin

    The Lakers are not in postseason form yet, so this loss doesn’t mean much. But their fans need to stop pretending that they didn’t get the best possible matchup for them in the Finals out of the East’s Big 3. Go ahead and say “meh, they won it all last year, they’ll do it again”, but don’t come crying in here if either Cleveland or Boston make it out of the East this year and proceed to pound the Lakers into submission.

  • Jake

    The Lakers would have tied the game with 21 seconds left if Gasol wouldn’t have missed both of his free throws.I think the game would have ended up in overtime.They had a rough go of it but we still have 4 months and the playoffs until we can even think of seeing this matchup again.A lot could happen in those months.

  • ab_40

    uhm they got beat by the cavs twice and the cavs were missing their starting pg. come playoff time. but the cavs need a great perimeter defender I’m telling you go for tayshaun prince. he’ll hit the open jumper and play his ass of on D.

  • JoeMaMa

    Kobe won’t say it, and no one else has, and I’m not even really a Lakers fan…but I’ve got to think that Kobe’s back and finger are keeping him from taking over like he wants to. He’s had some BAD shooting games because of his injuries, and they ran into a team that can beat an injured Kobe. I agree: they need to toughen up…but a healthy Kobe makes a close loss a close win.

  • Epsilon Nupe

    as a Kobe fan I am just mad that Lebron made him fall from a spin move

  • http://www.slamonline.com MooButter

    Maybe some of Kobe’s teammates should choke him for going 12 for 31 and taking a running three at the end of the game…

  • http://slamonline.com d.j.

    haha cavs did yall dirtier than an*l sex last night, big shout out to all the faker fans… championship is coming back east where it belongs, (Boston or Cleveland) yall was just lucky last year (no KG) and it shows

  • http://www.slamonline.com T-Money

    Everyone’s talking about how soft Pau is but what about Drew? Shaq was straight punking him down low. Drew is kinda like JO back in the days: huge numbers vs. sorry teams but best believe Lamar is subbing for him in the big games. / The Lakers bigs are soft. Fact. Doesn’t mean they can’t win it all again but it is what it is.

  • buschfiya

    GASOL IS A BI**H

  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    Wasn’t everyone saying the same thing this time last year? How’d the season end again?

  • rob

    I agree with the “lack of toughness” factor, but let me tell you something. At the end the Lakers had the chance to take over and Kobe forced to many shots. A couple of times Gasol was in a better position to score. I’m a big Kobe fan, but Jesus, if you know you are not having your best shooting going (injuries) damn Mamba, pass the effing ball!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Didn’t the Lakers win both games last season? I can’t remember.

  • UnRel

    i don’t know if you can call Gasol soft.. you can’t ask someone to be something they’re not.. that’s like asking tim duncan to be more like KG.. however, he does need to get tougher.. in the sense that he shouldn’t vanish from games.. and where was bynum at the end of the game?..

  • hillbilly

    During the game, Marv & Reggie were bickering back & forth about Gasol’s utter futility vs. O’Neal in the low post. After one particularly embarrassing play in which Shaq barely brushed Pau & sent him reeling backward, Reggie screamed, “Jeeez! Get in the gym and pick up a barbell or something!”. Marv responded with, “He’s always been more of a finesse-type player. Do you really expect him to change at this point in his career?”. After a long pause, Reggie countered with what has to be one of the most asinine/hilarious comebacks of all time… “He’s a seven footer!!!”
    Even by ‘Reggie standards’, it was pure gold.

  • http://fashionsensei.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/jackie-moon.jpg Jackie Moon

    @Eboy Where’s my apologeeeeeeeee for the wrong predicitions about the Lakers last year?

  • dw24

    Dude send Gasoft to the bench and start Odom at least he tries. Pau in the words of Reggie Miller “Pick up a barbell!” You’re way too soft and you’re declining.

  • you already know.

    Lakers is really a garbage team! Gasol too soft! Artest have no clue out on the court! Lebron made the Lakers look silly yes2day! lol Celtics wouldht won another chip last year for wasnt KG injury. The C’s are taking it this year point blank.

  • James

    i just think pau choked at the end. nothing soft about the lakers in this game. bynum letting an ancient shaq get him into foul trouble was key for the cavs win. it also helped that gasol airballed two layups! and then bricked two free throws! he’s not soft more like….scared. hopefully he’ll start playing at a championship level come playoff time. i still believe the Lakers are the best team in the NBA right now. men lie, women lie….numbers don’t. and expect to see a fired up kobe at MSG tonight

  • James

    and the Lakers need to take advantage of varejao whenever he’s guarding Lamar Odom. there was one play in the 2nd quarter when lamar straight up froze varejao with a step back crossover dribble then hit the jumpshot from the corner. L.O. could do this every time to varejao if he wanted too

  • http://www.slamonline.com T-Money

    Let’s slow down, they still have only 10 losses. But it’S getting increasingly evident that Ron Ron can not stop or even slow down Bron. At all. I mean, he was going UNDER screens. Waaaaay under. He might be as big as Bron but he’s got about half the foot speed.

  • kobesbestfriend

    Lebron sux!this is a regular season game so who cares!do u fools actually think my main man Kobe would sit out the majority of the fourth or give the ball to Pau in crunchtime if this was the finals???

  • http://www.nba.com/lakers 1morechip!/Juan

    ok let me state somthing i think that phil did a bad trade we all know that artest was one of the best defenders but he doesnt play his good defense as he used to for the rockets i say that artest is not fitting in with the lakers just look at his emotions and he has no potential when he plays. I think that ariza is a better overall player and with ariza the lakers will get an extra boost.

    p.s. im a SUPER KOBE FAN but hes slakking

  • http://www.nba.com/lakers 1morechip!/Juan

    my comment on eboy:

    Eboys post: Uhm……Kobe did try to guard him and got knocked around like a rag doll…..or a puppet

    1morechip!/juans reply: if you watched the game and heard what the comms said was that he got of balance so dont bring that nonsense up…

  • Brian

    Lakers 2009 title = *

  • J-RO

    Kobe was praised for hitting big shots against weak teams like Miami, Milwaukee, and Sacramento. So why did his scary a$$ take a running 3 with 20 seconds left on the clock. Dude only wants to try hard on weak teams?

  • SylvioMac

    “UnRel Posted: Jan.22 at 12:12 pm
    i don’t know if you can call Gasol soft..you can’t ask someone to be something they’re not..however, he[Gasol] does need to get tougher..”

    Contradict much?

  • boogster

    kobe hit trey not against miami, but D Wade, who is a good defender.

  • A.

    @boogster: Dwyane Wade isn’t on Miami anymore? When did this happen?

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper

    kobe missed 19 shots. he didnt set up any teammates, he screwed them from the jump by going for dolo. ehh,

  • therighttoremainsalient

    this was a point i raised in a recent related thread – lakers are arguably the most talented, deep team in the league and you would back them to repeat….but as the point I would make – if the referee’s allow a seven game series to play out with the physicality and the intensity such as the cleveland cavaliers bring, it will be a long series for LA (or maybe a short one O_o).

  • http://slamonline.com tealish

    I normally don’t get into the “X player is soft” talk because often it’s unfounded. For example, Dirk is not soft because his game is perimeter based. However, watching the closing minutes of the Cavs/Lakers game… Gasol PLAYED real soft when it mattered most. He looked so weak when he had the ball in the paint. All in all, I wouldn’t be mad if he was left off the All-Star team. Kaman probably deserves it.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Odom isn’t “nasty” per say, but he’s sure dirty, provocative, and annoying.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Gasol is soft because 6’6 Chuck Hayes was locking him down for stretches in the playoffs last year.

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton
  • Franco
  • jdn41

    eh eh don’t talk down chuck hayes, dude is a serious baller me and my boys love watching him play he’s all heart

  • David

    I was going to make a “Does Kobe Bryant have to choke a…” joke until I remembered that whole sexual assault thing.

  • KoBynum716

    did we forget gasol’s not a center? if anyone’s soft, its bynums lanky ass. if anyone should be blamed, it should be bynum. when pau was out, he was ballin. he couldn’t keep it up to demand double coverage in the post, so pau ends up gettin doubled, (and yeah, he’s like 40 pounds). i just love lOVe LOVE how people used to praise pau back in memphis cuz he was their one bright hope, and now that he’s a laker, he’s hated on doubly. the guy takes care of business, plain and simple. and for the record, f*(k chris kaman.

  • therighttoremainsalient

    I think the key is for this Lakers team is that they lack that, “digging in the trenches” mentality. If games becoem a grind it out, bust-a-punk carnie-sideshow they tend to get the ‘tail-between-their-legs’ mindset on.

  • A l a n

    … wait playoff time… this will change, plain and simple. As Gasol and Spain in the las Eurobasket, where they started being the super-favourite, as the Lakers (IMO), had some hard troubles losing games against other candidates, as the Lakers now, but when it really counted, Gasol stepped up, as he will come May and June.

  • Shifty

    I like how it was brought up before that even Mega-Tron can’t stop LBJ

  • j.b

    charles oakley anyone? maybe some rick mahorn/laimbeer. bring some mcnasty to hollywood

  • http://www.spsu.edu xiaonan

    that is why they won the chapionship last season? because Magic is also a soft team.

  • http://slamonline.com Dave

    Less than 100 responses on a Laker post? You need to put Kobe’s name in the title, guys. C’mon.

  • JP

    The Cavs won 2 regular season games and they are NBA Champions ?
    I see no improvement in this team at all. It’s always the same story. When it’s easy, it’s all about team game, dancing, taunting and singing all over the place but when it’s becoming tough it’s Lebron 1 on 5 with teamates watching like last year and the years before.
    In the playoffs the result will be the same. Lebron will go out of the building without shaking hands.
    You can call the Lakers whatever you want to give hope to the rest of the league fans but they are the champs and will be again next June.

  • http://www.jewelzlopez.com -Mas-

    @ Whom ever it may concern. If the possibility of a trade was there and the Lakers brass could trade Gasol to Toronto for Bosh and a new contract would that make Kobe happy? Or any trade for that matter?
    And @Anton you try playing any game even “Hokey Pokey” with both hamstrings still tight from injury. Get back to me and tell me how it feels.
    Check up on LA’s record with and without Pau in the starting lineup. That should be enough.
    -Mas-

  • http://www.jewelzlopez.com -Mas-

    PS. Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol was one of 10 NBA players donating $1,000 for every point he scored Friday night to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

    The players taking part, all clients of the Wasserman Media Group, included Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose, Atlanta All-Star Joe Johnson, rookie Tyreke Evans and Spencer Hawes of Sacramento, Wizards players Antawn Jamison and Mike Miller, Pacers guard Mike Dunleavy Jr, Celtics center Kendrick Perkins and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.
    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

  • Omar

    The problem with the Lakers is that their toughest players (Fisher, Kobe and Artest) are perimeter players. It’s just the bigs that are soft.

  • blackmamba24

    Cleaveland swept us , but they’re not the team we’re facing in the finals.

  • chintao

    Artest is proving that flaccidness is contagious. Kobe is “Chris Brown”-hard

  • therighttoremainsalient

    This season will see a real beat up on the lakers through the playoffs. you could get san antonio, houston, denver all push LA around for 3 series’ and all of a sudden you have a weary albeit veteran team making a deep run. Come up against the Celtics or Cleveland in the finals and this could be one big mountain for them (prolly wish they had Megatron).

  • JP

    Were they too soft last night ???

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