Jerry West says Lakers have issues

Updated: May 24, 2012, 7:58 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Jerry West knows the look of a championship team when he sees one, and the current Los Angeles Lakers don't fit the bill, in West's eyes.

"Their team is not dead, but they're not one of the four best teams in the league, I don't think, anymore," the former Lakers executive told "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" on ESPN Radio Thursday. "They're very, very good. The people of Los Angeles have been fortunate in seeing so many good teams and so many championship-caliber teams, but to point the blame and blame this and blame that, give Oklahoma City credit."

West, who recently finished his first season working as an executive board member and consultant for the Golden State Warriors, believes that the Warriors, Lakers and the rest of the Western Conference will be looking up in the standings at the Thunder for a good while.

"The Lakers, to me, are behind them, and the other teams are trying to catch up," West said, just days after the Thunder ousted the Lakers 4-1 in the conference semifinals.

The Hall of Famer, who went on to experience perhaps even more success as an executive with the Lakers than he did as a player, said the team is in a tough spot because of the makeup of its roster and the guaranteed contracts on the books that are already eating up the bulk of its salary cap figure.

"The Lakers have been historically good in going out in the offseason and getting pieces to be able to help them," West said. "It's going to be so much more difficult for them because of the high-salaried players they have that are getting older. Would someone want to make a trade with them for a player that's making $18 (million) or $19 million? Who knows that?

"But I know (Lakers general manager) Mitch Kupchak very well and (Lakers owner) Jerry Buss very well and they'll try to do anything to have a championship-caliber team."

West's mention of the player making $19 million a year was a thinly veiled reference to forward Pau Gasol, who is owed approximately $38.3 million the next two seasons. Gasol struggled in the playoffs, averaging just 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds on 43.4 percent shooting, a significant drop from his 17.4 points and 10.4 rebounds on 50.1 percent shooting averages in the regular season.

However, West did not place the blame for the Lakers' failures on Gasol. Instead, he pointed to the challenges that came from the very beginning of the lockout-shortened season.

"They have a very good team, but the thing I think ... when I watched them was this season to me was not really a basketball season," West said on the radio show. "To say it wasn't a traditional training camp, people don't understand how important that is. The other thing is, when I look at their team is they got a very good starting lineup but the inconsistency of the bench play is really what hurt them most.

"I think at times, you bring in a new coach, Phil (Jackson) had been there so long and a number of the players were so used to playing in that system that there are adjustments to be made. If you don't have time to prepare in training camp, it's certainly not a good thing."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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