Gary Payton recounts what went wrong with 2004 Lakers
Gary Payton looked back on his 2004 stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, particularly on what went wrong with it.
Speaking on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Payton pointed out a spate of reasons on why the legendary team comprised of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in their prime, Karl Malone, and himself failed to win a championship. Payton pointed to injuries, personal setbacks, and problems within the Lakers organization as prime suspects of their demise.
“The big reason was Karl Malone got hurt. We were [18-3] and everybody was talking about we were going to get the Bulls’ record and stuff like that. But then people don’t get it. We had a kid, Kobe Bryant, he was a kid. He had just gotten in trouble. He had a mindset of, ‘I think I’m going to jail. I don’t know what’s going to happen.’ He was going back and forth to Denver, we didn’t have him a lot. Then, all of a sudden, Shaq and the organization were having problems.”
Despite the struggles in the regular season, the Lakers managed to make it all the way to the NBA Finals. On paper, they were expected to give the Detroit Pistons a good pummeling. But perhaps the injuries and personal setbacks took their toll on the powerhouse Lakers squad.
After the disappointing finish, the 2004 Lakers team broke up. Malone retired. O’Neal and Payton moved elsewhere, and Bryant remained a Laker. Though the team had a good run, it’s one of those things best forgotten than remembered.