Anatomy Of A Disaster – Part 3
How The Lakers Lost 61 Of 82 Games
April 23, 2015
(Editor's Note: Three seasons ago, after the Lakers were swept out of the NBA playoffs in the first round a summary of their troubles was analyzed in part 1 of this series. I didn't plan on a part 2 but readers asked for one. Now part 3 is required because the Lakers have just completed their worst season in franchise history, 21 wins, 61 losses)
By Mitch Chortkoff
I understand the reasoning. The Lakers were going to sacrifice this season in order to retain money to sign free agents in the summer.
Quite a few will be available.
"I didn't think we'd make the playoffs but I thought we'd be close," said Scott.
Then came injury after injury. The Lakers went 21-61, the merciful ending coming last week following back to back losses to the Sacramento Kings.
The franchise with 16 NBA championships, second among all teams topped only by the Boston Celtics with 17, now ranks near the bottom.
Fans might expect a fast turnaround, something general manager Mitch Kupchak says is possible, but my many years of covering the NBA leads me to believe otherwise.
The Lakers hope to be a playoff contender next season but they'd have to pass non-playoff teams such as Utah and Sacramento before even coming close to the eight who have made the current playoffs plus Oklahoma City and Phoenix, who missed by a only few games.
In the past few years, the first ones under the leadership of new owner Jim Buss, mistake after mistake has been made.
First, the signing of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Soon all the allotted money for free agents had been spent and both players were gone.
Nash, now 40, couldn't play anymore and Howard became unhappy enough to quickly leave for Houston.
Mike Brown, who had been fired in Cleveland, was brought in as coach. Then after Brown was fired by the Lakers a year later Mike D'Antoni was hired. He believed in the three-point shot to the point that Howard left, expressing to me he didn't get the ball often enough in the offense.
So Pau Gasol became the center but he left a year later too. He admitted he was driven away when he was taken out of the starting lineup and then had to deal with frequent trade rumors.
"That wore me down," he confided.
Had the Lakers valued him as they should have he'd likely still be here. Instead he became the Eastern Conference's starting center in this season's all-star game as a member of the Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers didn't want to pay Gasol's $19 million salary. They moved Jordan Hill, a forward, into the center position and increased his salary to $9 million.
Maybe they thought they'd made a wise move. But Hill, who had developed a much-improved outside shot, wasn't the defensive presence required of a center on a playoff contender.
By opening day of this season I was so shocked by the roster I gave the Lakers no chance of being in the running for a playoff berth.
Who had the experience and ability to slow down the league's vast array of swift point guards? Who would discourage opposing guards from penetrating and scoring or passing to big men for easy shots?
When injuries occurred so often, beginning with Bryant, the Lakers had no chance of staving off a disastrous season.
The lone bright spot was the development of Jordan Clarkson, a rookie guard who had been the 46th pick in the NBA draft.
"We liked him a lot," said Ryan West, a member of the team's scouting department. 'When the 40th pick was made and he was still available we got excited."
Clarkson kept progressing and has a good chance to be a fixture in the club's rebuilding process.
But not many of this season's Lakers figure to be back. Ed Davis is likely to leave and get an improved contract from another team. Most others had one-year contracts and probably won't be invited back.
Bryant has one year remaining on his contract but hasn't completed a season for three years due to injuries.
Robert Sacre has been the backup center for two years but might lose that position to Tarak Black, a newcomer who showed promise.
It isn't a pretty picture. But it's where the Lakers stand now.