Last Sunday (February 22), the Los Angeles Lakers ended a seven game losing streak by defeating the Boston Celtics in overtime by a final score of 118-111, but the real news came after the game had finished. While Lakers guard Jeremy Lin was being interviewed after leading all scores with 25 points in the victory, several of his teammates bombarded the interview with declarations that the Lakers 'were back'.
Guard Nick Young and forwards Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer suddenly appeared on camera and were excessively celebrating a victory that brought the Lakers to a pedestrian 14-41 record. Young, infamously known by his nickname 'Swaggy P', starts to joyously yell into the camera, "We back in the building. Ya'll thought we was gone!"
*Below is part of the post game interview.
*(Video belongs to the NBA)
This highlight ended up making its way to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who had just undergone season ending surgery to his right shoulder. While on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Bryant looked utterly disgusted when Kimmel showed him the video and couldn't even bring himself to words. The video ended up showcasing how some players on the team act without their driven guard in the locker room to keep them in check. It was an utterly embarrassing moment for a legendary franchise that has fallen on some rough times in recent years.
|Injured Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's initial|
reaction after watching the 'celebration'
video on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live'.
Photo courtesy of Huffington Post.
Ever since Los Angeles won back to back titles in 2009 and 2010, the Lakers franchise has slowly trended downward. And looking back in retrospect, it appears clear that this trend ultimately started before the 2012-2013 season.
After losing in the Conference Semifinals for the second straight year back in 2012, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and owner Jerry Buss decided that they had to make moves in order to become an immediate championship contender. And it looked like that had a chance of happening when the Lakers were on the edge of acquiring point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets in a trade. But the NBA and former commissioner David Stern famously called off a trade that could've realistically brought Bryant another championship.
|Point guard Steve Nash.|
Photo courtesy of USA Today.
PLAN B (BUT STILL WIN NOW)
Instead, the organization went to Plan B and acquired a 38 year old former two time MVP point guard, in Steve Nash, from the Phoenix Suns. Over the last few years with the Suns, Nash's production had begun to decline. But he did average 12.5 points and 10.7 assists per game in 2011 and the Lakers obviously felt that he could be the guy to take pressure off of Bryant in the backcourt and be the floor manager and facilitator that they desperately needed.
The organization then pulled an even more surprising move to trade a disgruntled Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers and acquire all star center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. For years in Orlando, Howard had grown increasingly frustrated with head coach Stan Van Gundy and with management. There were also numerous reports that he wanted to play in a bigger market with other marquee talent. So when a trade to the Brooklyn Nets to play with guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson never materialized, Howard took the Lakers offer to play in Hollywood.
|Former Lakers center Dwight Howard,|
now a member of the Houston Rockets.
Photo courtesy of fansided.com.
PROMISE TURNED INTO DISASTER
Yet the 2012-2013 season for the Los Angeles Lakers turned out to be a complete disaster that quickly played out in the public eye. Howard actually had back surgery in April 2012 and the Lakers believed that he would be able to start playing productive minutes around December.
But with new head coach Mike Brown trying to implement a new offense, the Princeton offense, there were inevitably going to be struggles for all of the players to learn. Especially for Howard, who would be practicing later than everybody else on the team.
But even with that, expectations were sky high for that year's team as their five starters (Nash, Bryant, forward Metta World Peace, Gasol, and Howard) had a combined 33 all star appearances and the roster had a league high $100 million payroll. Los Angeles began that year with three straight losses, the first time that had happened since 1978. And when they reached a 1-4 record, Brown was suddenly fired by the team.
|Coach Mike D'Antoni|
Photo courtesy of foxsports.com.
That turned out to be an even worse decision. Nash and Howard would end up fighting injuries all season, Howard and Gasol had trouble getting the ball and getting involved in D'Antoni's perimeter style offense and Howard and Bryant were constantly feuding off the court due to the belief that Howard wasn't as interested as Bryant was in winning.
Chemistry issues and further injuries, including a season ending Achilles injury to Bryant, ruined a promising season and the Lakers ended up being swept out in the first round of the playoffs.
THE CURRENT STATE OF THE LAKERS
The past two seasons have been even worse for Laker nation. The team finished with a 27-55 record in 2014 and are currently 16-41 this season. Dwight Howard left in 2013 after just one season with the Lakers and is currently on the Houston Rockets. Pau Gasol left after the 2014 season and is currently enjoying a career resurgent year with the Chicago Bulls. Steve Nash is still on the roster, but has only played in 15 games this season and is averaging just 6.8 points and 5.7 assists in those games. And with Kobe Bryant out for the remainder of the season, what do the Lakers have exactly?
|Guard Nick Young|
Photo courtesy of Bleacherreport.
|Forward Jordan Hill|
Photo courtesy of lakernation.com.
Lakers management swung and completely whiffed on trying to acquire star NBA talents like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and many others to try and pair them with Bryant for one last championship run. Very few players in the league now want to play with Bryant and his $20+ million per year contract makes it impossible to be able to sign other stars around him and make a viable team.
AN UNKNOWN FUTURE
Kobe Bryant has one year remaining on his contract and it appears more and more apparent that next season will be his last in the NBA. But will next season even be a good season for him to go out and retire on? His reaction on Jimmy Kimmel Live showcased the frustration that he has with the mediocre talent that is remaining on the roster and how the younger players are joking around after one overtime victory, against an equally bad team, has them still well under a .500 record.
|Guard Jordan Clarkson|
Phoro courtesy of lakeshowlife.com.
|Forward Julius Randle|
Photo courtesy of The LA Times.
Randle and Clarkson could end up being solid talent, but the cupboard is VERY dry outside of these two players. The Lakers are stuck with a four year/ $21.5 million contract with Nick Young and a two year/ $18 million contract with Jordan Hill. If this is what you're going to have soon WITHOUT Kobe Bryant, this organization might soon be years and years away from even being relevant.
The only thing that the Los Angeles Lakers have going for them is that they could end up with another high draft pick for this year's draft in June. And with the Lakers currently having the fourth worst record in the NBA, their chances of landing a very high draft pick look promising. Especially when this year's draft class is loaded with immediate NBA talent, such as Duke center Jhalil Okafor, Kentucky forward Karl Anthony Towns, and Ohio State point guard D'Angelo Russell. But once again with the Lakers, even that is not a guarantee.
Due to the trade for Steve Nash back in 2012, the Lakers owe the Phoenix Suns a 2015 first round draft pick. However, that pick is top 5 protected. This means that if the Los Angeles Lakers end up with a top five draft pick this year, they get to keep the pick. If it falls out of the top five, that pick automatically goes to Phoenix.
We won't know what pick the Lakers will have until the NBA draft lottery in May. And even though the Lakers have the fourth worst record in the league right now, that could change if the team begins to win more games or if the lottery balls place the Lakers outside of the top five anyway.
|The 2015 season will most likely|
be Bryant's last NBA season.
Photo courtesy of Business Insider.
It kind of comes back full-circle in a way. The Los Angeles Lakers traded for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in 2012 to make the team an instant championship contender. Instead, everything has gone downhill since. Jerry Buss unfortunately passed away during the 2012-2013 season and Jim Buss has struggled mightily in his father's footsteps as the new owner. Bryant will most likely retire after next season and the future of this organization is truly up in the air.
The Los Angeles Clippers, the team that successfully acquired Chris Paul, is the new marquee team in Hollywood. Even though the Clippers will never match the mystique of the Lakers, there is no doubt that the Lakers have hit hard times.
Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and future draft picks could be the keys in at least bringing back respectability to the Lakers organization. But there is no certainty that the Los Angeles Lakers are going to be relevant anytime soon.
What do YOU think the Lakers can do to rebuild and restore itself to prominence? Should they rely on the draft or should they go after marquee free agents? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.