Their hopes of an NBA championship lost in a sea of Celtic green, the Lakers return home adrift, questions to answer, moves to ponder and a future course to be charted.

* Did this young team overachieve by merely reaching the NBA Finals? Are the wounds inflicted by Boston, punctuated by the 131-92 season-ending defeat in Game 6, too deep to rebound from?

I know the Celtics played with all sorts of injuries, but it is the Lakers who walk away from this series with what could prove to be the more lasting injuries, to their pride, ego and confidence. How they handle that will be found in the team’s’ El Segundo facility over the next few weeks, gauged by the number of players who show up to take the first important steps on the road back.


* Are the Lakers a soft team, physically and mentally?

If this team is suffering from a character flaw, the weight room isn’t going to fix it.

* Can the team’s basketball IQ grow?

It regressed as the series progressed. The young Lakers players made mistakes you don’t normally see in a college or a regular-season NBA game, much less the Finals. They forgot the three most important facets of the game: Details, details, details.

* Going forward, will Andrew Bynum be capable, following his knee injury, of bringing the fierce presence into the paint that was so embarrassingly missing, especially on Tuesday night?

There was no post presence by Pau Gasol on Tuesday and he was their only hope in the paint. The one player he was able to handle was Glen Davis, the rookie. But Gasol couldn’t seem to do equally well against anybody else.

* Who is going to play defense on this team?

That’s what wins championships. True, 48-minute defense, not for just one or two plays a game.

But this series wasn’t just about the Lakers’ weaknesses. It was about the Celtics’ strength as well.

After all the years he struggled in Minnesota, Kevin Garnett has finally settled any doubts about his ability to deliver in big games.

Paul Pierce may have been the MVP, but, to me, the Boston bench was really the most valuable part of their team. Whenever anybody went out, someone else seemed to come in and maintain the momentum. Those reserves played way above what was expected of them. Boston did just fine with Pierce and any other four guys, Garnett and any other four guys, Ray Allen and any other four guys.

The Celtics had an answer for every situation. For the Lakers, there are only questions.