While it was doubtful these Los Angeles Lakers had any potential to make the playoffs this year in this unbelievably competitive Western Conference, even had everything gone their way, it is still jarring to realize that the Lakers are tied for last in the Western Conference with the Sacramento Kings. There is some hesitance in saying that the Lakers will be fine because they are THE Lakers, meaning that they always seem to land a star player or two to transition from one dominant period to the next. While I wouldn’t rule out a circumstance where that happens in the next year or two, it seems like a particularly precipitous downward fall for the Lakers in the near future.
The most disappointing part of this season for the Lakers has to be the unfortunate continuing breakdown in franchise icon, Kobe Bryant. After suffering his devastating Achilles injury from last year, many people thought Bryant would come back to prove all his doubters wrong, which wasn’t out of the question, considering how much he seems to enjoy doing so, but after only a couple weeks of play, he suffered a significant knee injury, and has been out most of the season. There is really no reason for him to come back this season (unless he wants to keep climbing the all time scoring leader list), he’s suffered the two most serious injuries of his career the past two season, might as well shut it down now, see if it could prolong his career for another year or two. Unfortunately, not many players get to choose how they go out, not even one’s as stubborn as Kobe Bryant.
Another former superstar, Steve Nash, has also spent most of the season off the floor, due to his being in his 40’s and breaking down physically. Not as disappointing as Bryant’s injury because of the predictive nature of Nash reoccurring back and leg issues. It remains to be seen whether or not Nash retires after this season (doubtful, considering he is still owed another 9 million dollars).
This season hasn’t been a complete waste though. There have been some surprises and intriguing pieces the Lakers may have found in their down year. Acquiring castaway point guard Kendall Marshall has been a tremendous move, as the young point guard has distributed the ball quite well, accumulating a lot of assists already, as well as shooting the ball much better than expected. While it remains to be seen if his play continues at this pace, it has been a bright spot in an otherwise awful season.
Former all-star, and major catalyst on the last two championship teams for the Lakers, Pau Gasol has turned his season around after a slow start. While not the player he used to be, he is definitely still quite capable of being a productive player at this stage of his career. It’ll be very interesting to see where he lands next year, as he is a free agent after this year, and it is highly doubtful he’ll be back with the Lakers.
Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks have also been bright spots in this season. Meeks has shot the ball quite well throughout the season, and Hill has continued to put up very good rebounding number in his limited playing time.
With only a couple months left in the season, hopefully we can see former greats Bryant and Nash return. While they wouldn’t ride off into the sunset with a championship, it till would be nice to see the legends on the court, entertaining fans once again.