When talking about and comparing super teams, the L.A. Lakers will almost always enter the conversation. Gary Payton, who played for the Purple and Gold in 2003/2004, alongside Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal, shared the difference of their team compared to the current Lakers led by LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.
Comparing the two teams
In an interview with Draymond Green, the two talked about comparing the 04 Lakers and the current Lakers. There are some merits to it. Both squads are stacked. Both L.A. rosters also featured veterans trying to win one last time before ending their careers. But The Glove mentioned a crucial difference: Kobe and Shaq were still in their primes in 2004, and although he and The Mailman were not in their peaks anymore, they still could contribute. What fell the 04 team was the team's issues, such as injuries on off-court distractions. Kobe dealt with a lawsuit in Denver at that time. However, despite all that transpired, the Phil Jackson mentored team made it to the Finals but unfortunately lost against the Detroit Pistons.
"I don't think this team that the Lakers got are nothing like us. I think we were in our prime a lot of us was way more in our prime than they were."
The 04 Lakers achieved what they were set out to do because everyone knew their role, whereas, in the current Purple and Gold roster, everyone seems to try still to figure out how to play with each other.
Payton believes the Lakers can still figure it out
GP believes the current Lakers can still turn it around, and Green agreed. Fans quickly forget how loaded the L.A. lineup is and are full of veterans who have competed at the highest level. Just because they are underperforming now doesn't mean they will still be the same in the playoffs.
Another difference about the struggles the Lakers today endure is the constant depleted lineup due to health and safety protocols. In 04, when players get sidelined, there's a timetable when they can return. Plus, teams didn't lose half or more than half of their rosters. Meanwhile, the teams in the NBA had to sign players to 10-day contracts for the games not to get canceled.
Payton is correct when he said his Lakers team had more potential and were more productive. James is 37 years old but still carrying the team on his back. Once the Lakers find its groove and the players get healthy, they will be formidable if and when they make the postseason.
Fans will speculate and compare the 04 and the 21 teams, but the similarities end there aside from having stacked lineups. Meanwhile, if LeBron and the rest of the present Lakers win a title despite all the team's challenges, they will be considered better than the 04 squad that made the finals but lost the championship.