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Saying goodbye to a Lakers era as wild and successful as they've had

Their method had plenty of madness to it, but this group also brought home five championships. Rebuilding won't be easy.

May 08, 2011|Mark Heisler
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant collides with Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson on a drive during Game 4 on Sunday afternoon in Dallas.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant collides with Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Next era.

Having gone from Purple and Gold to Purple and Old, the Lakers punked out and rolled over Sunday in Dallas to become Purple and Gone.

More ended than their string of titles —- like being the Lakers we've known in the 21st century.

Of course, with the way they went out, it was definitely time.

Whoever remains, Coach Phil Jackson, who put his unmistakable imprint on the era that began with his arrival, won't.

Photos: Mavericks sweep Lakers

If Jackson gets singed on his way out for joking while his team came apart at the seams … as he had while winning five titles with Lakers teams that seemed about to come apart at the seams … wait 'til they try picking up Humpty Dumpty's pieces without him.

Merely going from Jackson to Brian Shaw ... the favored scenario if they had won a title ... would be hard enough.

Doing it while revamping the roster will be harder.

Bringing in a high-profile coach who junks the triangle offense, which Jerry and Jim Buss are reportedly considering — Doc Rivers, anyone? — forget the number.

The roster isn't just old, slow — and almost all on guaranteed contracts — it was set up to run the triangle.

If not, they'll need a point guard rather than "initiators" Derek Fisher and Steve Blake, who make entry passes and hit open shots.

The ending was grisly as the Lakers became demoralized, or quit, as when Lamar Odom walked the ball up after a Jason Terry three-point shot and made a nonchalant toss to Matt Barnes, which Peja Stojakovic stole and took in for a layup.

At the very end, it got outrageous with Odom and Andrew Bynum throwing ever-cheaper shots.

On the other hand …

Before continuing the journalistic process Ernest Hemingway called coming down from the hills after the battle and shooting the survivors, it should be noted how great this era was, until Sunday.

Only four NBA, NFL or baseball teams have won three titles in a row since the Oakland A's run from 1972 to 1974.

Jackson coached three of them, the Chicago Bulls from 1991-93 and 1996-98, and the Lakers from 2000-02.

If this was his first failure to three-peat, the Lakers' five titles from 2000-2010 stand with the Showtime Lakers' five in the '80s; the Yankees' four World Series championships from 1996-2000; and the Steelers' four Super Bowl wins from 1975-80.

Not that any of them challenged this team's goofy quotient.

Whether this was the craziest great team ever, or the greatest crazy team ever, covering them was like writing about the circus.

Not that they were easy. Their stars saw the press as paparazzi, the press saw them as divas and both had a point.

Welcome to modern sports.

Everywhere else, you go through this stuff to hear, "That's behind me, I'm looking to the future."

With the Lakers, it was all out in the open, a roller coaster ride to triumph or a mud hole —- and you didn't know which until the end.

Magic Johnson, doing commentary for ABC, said he was stunned, having already called for the team to be blown up.

Johnson once did what Jackson did, acknowledging whatever was going on with a positive spin.

The difference was that Coach Pat Riley ruled with an iron hand, with Magic as No. 1 taskmaster, coming down on any hint of a problem.

It worked for them, too, five titles worth in the '80s, of which Riley coached four.

Jackson would cop to whatever was going on, if only he was asked, but let things work themselves.

It worked too, five titles worth from 2000-10.

The end is always grisly, unless you announce your retirement at the parade, even if the Lakers out-did themselves with this punk-rock concert.

Showtime ended in 1990 with Riley, a movie star locally, reluctantly accepting Jerry Buss' suggestion he resign after melting down in their 4-1 second-round loss to Phoenix and his players got demoralized, or rolled over, too.

If it was no fun digging out when Showtime ended, this one won't be any day at the beach.

Nevertheless, as eras go, this one is up there with Showtime, just scarier.

Thanks for the memories, or most of them.

Photos: Mavericks sweep Lakers

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