It would be an understatement to say that the Los Angeles Lakers have struggled this season, but the turmoil this year has been like no other in the history of the franchise. The Lakers are one the most storied franchises in the history of the NBA and to see them struggle so mightily in a single season is a rarity.
The Lakers have the highest win percentage of any team in NBA history at .620 and they have the most NBA final appearances at 31. They have 16 NBA championships, which is second only to the Boston Celtics, who have 17. Since their founding in 1947, the Lakers have only missed the playoffs five times. After this season, it is likely that number will become six.
The Lakers are coming off of their worst defeat in the history of the franchise thanks to a 142-94 beat down from their staple center tenants, the Los Angeles Clippers. For decades the Lakers have been viewed as the only real NBA team in L.A., but for the second season in a row, the Clippers have established themselves as a far superior team. The roles have finally been reversed in Los Angeles.
Not only has it been a season like no other for the Los Angeles Lakers franchise, but it has also been a year to forget for their fans. It was a designated home game for the Lakers against the Clippers on Thursday night, and for the fourth time this season the staples center did not sellout for a Laker home game. Coming into this NBA year, the Lakers had sold out every home game since the 2006-2007 NBA season.
Following the dismantling of the Lakers on Thursday night, the Clippers now host a Pacific Division leading record of 43-20. The Lakers are currently 21-41, which is dead last in the Western Conference. The Lakers will need to win 9 of their final 21 games to avoid the worst record in the history of the franchise. With their current roster, this is easier said then done.
The Lakers are known for having legends of the game on their teams, true superstars of the sport. Their squads have featured Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Magic Johnson, or even more recently Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. With Bryant missing his 56th game of the season on Thursday due to injury, the Lakers depleted roster was put on display.
Steve Nash has been plagued with injury all year, and with the Lakers recently trading veteran point guard Steve Blake, Pau Gasol has been left surrounded with a very inexperienced roster. Key players in the Lakers rotation now include Ryan Kelly, Kendall Marshal, Kent Bazemore and Robert Sacre, not exactly household names across the globe.
With a 36-year-old Bryant hoping to return to the line up next season, what can the Lakers do to get back on track? The Lakers have always been a franchise that rebuilds quickly. Whether it’s acquiring a Magic Johnson through the draft, or recruiting a young Shaquille O’Neal through free agency, the Lakers always find a way to get back on top. This year’s NBA draft class is said to be one of the deepest pools of talent in recent memory, and at the pace they’re currently going, the Lakers look like a shoe-in for one of the lottery picks.
For now the roles in Los Angeles have swapped, as the Clippers will be contending for an NBA championship, while the Lakers will be vying for a top five pick in this years draft. Whether a fan of the Lakers or the Clippers, this season for your team will truly be like no other in recent memory.
Commentary By Eric Kummel