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Lakers rue embarrassing end to championship run

Kobe Bryant says it's

Kobe Bryant says it's "very possible" he'll play in Italy during the NBA lockout. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Apologies and expectations were the order of the day as the Lakers dispersed from their lost season Tuesday.

Looking forward to their first year without coach Phil Jackson — and still licking their wounds after the second-worst playoff setback in their illustrious history — the Lakers displayed both pessimism and optimism.

Optimism because some feel the ignominious four-game Western semifinal sweep to the Mavericks will fuel next year’s effort, regardless of who is coaching. Pessimism because 7-foot Andrew Bynum expects a suspension for his cheap and dangerous hit on J.J. Barea in the fourth quarter of the 36-point, Game 4 blowout.

The foul got him ejected. And he apologized for it when he met with the media, indicating he planned on speaking to Barea personally.

“I want to actually apologize to J.J. Barea for doing that,” Bynum told Lakers.com. “I’m just glad he wasn’t seriously injured in the event. I looked at it. It’s terrible, and it won’t happen again.”

Ron Artest said the suddenness of elimination before from what would have been the Lakers’ fourth straight NBA Finals appearance would definitely help next season.

“I think this sweep helped,” Artest said. “It’s humbling. To move in the right direction, get that hunger back.”

Artest also said the Lakers could enter next season with no major changes and still contend.
Some observers feel age has become a factor, however. Questions about the wear and tear on 33-year-old Kobe Bryant’s treads will linger in the offseason. And that will play into the team’s need for overall better conditioning, or at least be more rest toward the end of the season.

Artest noted that six Lakers played all 82 games in the regular season.

“We were ready to fight, but our legs were gone,” Artest said.

Still, the departing Jackson, whom Artest compared to Muhammad Ali as a great champion who also lost his last match, felt the Lakers, as currently constituted, will still have the stuff of champions, even though he’s not going to be coaching them.

“It’s a great franchise,” Jackson said. “And we all know they always come back and get themselves in the race. The Lakers are going to survive and do well.”

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