In a season where Carmelo Anthony became a real star, the Miami Heat went on a streak to beat all (but one) winning streaks, and Chicago waited for their prodigal child to make his return, the downfall of the Lakers doesn’t look like much of a story.
Then again, a team with the league’s fourth all-time leading scorer, a three-time defensive player of the year, and a two-time MVP isn’t expected to end in seventh place; most thought that superstar starting five Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard would dominate the West Coast, and that the season would end in a championship, not a bust.
However, this season’s downward spiral was really in the cards from the beginning, starting with the trades for Dwight and Nash. After a season to forget by Laker fan standards (a second round bounce by the Oklahoma City Thunder), it was time to add star power. They got rid of Andrew Bynum (good move on their part), signed on Nash, and traded for Howard in a four-team trade that included Philadelphia and the Nuggets. It looked perfect on paper, but did not work in practice.
The Lakers started the season 2-3, leading to the firing of Mike Brown (after he endured the now-infamous Kobe death stare). From there, rumors erupted about the return of the Zen master, Phil Jackson. But the prayers of Lakers fans fell on deaf ears, and instead they received Mike D’Antoni and his run-and-gun offense. They bumbled through the season, but never lost hope of being in the playoffs, even with the injuries and the alleged in-house issues that arise from trying to get Kobe to give a little star power to another player. By January, they posted a 5-11 record.
Nevertheless, the Lakers made the play-offs, but in the most precarious of scenarios. First off, they were in a deadline day situation to secure their playoff spot. To make the playoffs, they needed the Utah Jazz, with whom they were in direct competition for the 8th seed, to lose. They got their wish when Utah dropped the game against the Memphis Grizzles. Then, to put them at the 7th seed, they needed to beat the Houston Rockets that same night. And though the game was shaky at best — the game went into overtime — they accomplished this too.
The biggest problem is that they will go into the postseason without their best player, Kobe Bryant. He’ll be relaxing at home/coaching court-side with a torn Achilles, the current threat to his career (he is optimistic, to say the least). But even with all the odds against the Lakers, who knows what will happen next? Maybe Dwight will put in the performance of a lifetime. Maybe Steve Nash will turn back the clock and remind fans of 2006 Nash. Or maybe it will be a clean sweep. Who knows. All that is for certain is the Los Angeles Lakers are in a hole, and there are not many who think they can dig themselves out.