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Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time NBA greats as well as a Laker great, entering his 20th and possibly last season in purple and gold. Photo courtesy of veooz.com

 

LOS ANGELES LAKERS – 2014-15 BY THE NUMBERS:

Record: 21-61, last place in the Pacific Division

Second worst record in the Western Conference

Fourth worst record in the National Basketball Association

Team Leaders:

(Note: ppg = points per game, rpg = rebounds per game, apg = assists per game)

Kobe Bryant, G – 22.3 ppg (led team), 5.7 rpg, 5.6 apg (led team)

Nick Young, G – 13.4 ppg

Jordan Clarkson, F – 11.9 ppg

Jordan Hill, F (no longer on Lakers) – 12 ppg, 7.9 rpg (led team)

 

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Bryant, Wesley Johnson (#11), who’s now a Clipper, and Julius Randle (#30), during a game at Staples Center. Photo courtesy of espn.go.com

 

When I was growing up – throughout much of my life, actually – I never thought in a million years that these Lakers, long acknowledged as the premier and elite sports franchise in Southern California with their 11 NBA championships in Los Angeles (16 overall),

Not to mention having won more games than any NBA team ever with 3,125 victories and counting,

Would fall into such a disastrous shambles of a team as not only was their 21-61 mark of a year ago signified their absolute worst season in 67 years of playing professional basketball, which includes 13 years in Minneapolis before moving to L.A. in 1960.

Like countless other Los Angelenos, I was a Lakers fan, particularly during the “Showtime” days of the 1980s when a certain point guard oozing with charisma named Earvin Johnson – known throughout the universe as “Magic” – James Worthy, and my personal favorite with a killer skyhook shot, who happened to end his career scoring more points than anyone who ever played basketball, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, led that “Lake Show” to seven NBA Finals and five crowns during that formative decade of mine (I was in junior high, high school and college during those years).

Seeing celebrities like Jack Nicholson sitting at court side and watching those Laker Girls dancing on the court only added to the mystique.

I had such a fondness of those Lakers that while I liked the Shaquille O’ Neal and Kobe Bryant-led championship three-peat at the turn of this century, I used to tell a friend all the time – and he agreed – that those Lakers would have gotten annihilated by the “Showtime” purple and gold.

Indeed, one of my biggest thrills as a sports person was meeting Magic while having lunch at a local Mexican restaurant a few years ago; he seemed touched when I told him I missed his Lakers.

More than anything else, that hoops squad did so much to unite Los Angeles as when it came to their winning ways, it didn’t matter where in the city you were from or your socioeconomic background – the Lakers owned L.A. Period.

I never, ever thought that as this team beings their 68th season in existence and 56th in SoCal, that because of them being SO pathetically horrible during the past two seasons with a combined record of (get this):

48 wins and 116 losses,

That it can be safely and without any doubt (at least in my view) be declared that the pro basketball scene in L.A. now belongs to the team whose locker room is just across the hall from the Lakers’ at Staples Center – the Los Angeles Clippers.

I know, I know, I’ve just angered all the passionate members of Laker Nation. I can hear them now:

“The Clippers haven’t even won a title!”

“When they raise sixteen banners, then you can talk!”

To which I counter with this:

– While it’s true that the Clippers have never won an NBA championship, the current state of the Lakers is so bad that I’m convinced Clipper Nation will celebrate their first title before Laker Nation celebrates their 17th, unless things change drastically.

– In the past three seasons of the Cross-The-Hall Rivalry between the two teams, the Clippers have made that series a mockery as they have beaten the Lakers 11 of the past 12 meetings, with most of those games being of the blowout kind.

– And to those Laker fans who keep pointing to the 16 banners hanging at Staples Center, allow me to post this video, courtesy of YouTube, of a certain pop superstar’s song that was released at the height of the Showtime era and became a smash hit:

 

“What Have You Done For Me Lately?”, by Janet Jackson (1986)

 

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Kobe wearing the Lakers’ Sunday white alternate uniforms. Photo courtesy of uniformcritics.com

 

Let me answer the question that I reckon folks are asking at this moment:

How did the Lakers get like this?

It’s quite straightforward:

– Free agent signings that didn’t work out in a major way, namely Dwight Howard, who didn’t fit in with the Lakers, L.A., or Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash, who couldn’t stay on the court as his injuries clearly signaled that he was through,

– The lack of desire for other big name free agents to become Lakers because of them allegedly not wanting to kowtow to Kobe, which they would have had to do,

– And mistakes made in the NBA draft, one in particular this past spring when after clinching the number two overall pick, the Lakers passed on Jahlil Okafor, a center they desperately needed as a significant part of their recent and ongoing futility lays in their lack of an interior defense.

As for how the Lakers can take back Los Angeles in the hearts of hoops fans and return to the NBA elite, it will take a while.

A few months ago I posted an article on this site regarding this issue, in which I stated that their rebuilding will only start in earnest upon Kobe’s retirement, as he will begin his 20th season in purple and gold and is the epitome of a veteran whose best days, though he remains quite the effective player, are behind him.

I also wrote that instead of depending on signing big names as was their philosophy for so long, the Lakers need to focus on drafting and developing young players like Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell, who the team drafted.

Those views have not changed, as home-grown players who are allowed to grow and mature together is the best way to rebuild this team.

In other words, a short-term pain in Laker Nation is necessary in order to achieve long-term gain.

 

Los Angeles Lakers: Their Top 10 Plays of the 2014-15 Season

 

All right, here it is: How I see the Lakers faring in 2015-2016:

If all the stars align, while they will not come remotely close to any kind of playoff contention, I see the Lakers as having a decent chance to win 30 games.

Which would be an improvement and, as how I see it, a significant one which would show that the organization is making progress.

They certainly have the on-court leadership as the best thing about that team is clearly their coach, former “Showtime” Laker Byron Scott.

If an ex-Laker with three championship rings can’t make an impact on the team he once played such an essential role for, I don’t think anyone can.

If nothing else, at least those Laker Girls will still be fun to look at.

 

 

Los Angeles Lakers' D'Angelo Russell, left, defends Portland Trail Blazers' Phil Pressey during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 104-102. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell, left, defends Portland Trail Blazers’ Phil Pressey during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 104-102. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Photo courtesy of news.yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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