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Friday, May 15, 2015

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA End of Season Worst to First Countdown: 27. Los Angeles Lakers

2014/2015 Projection: 44-38, third place Pacific Division, ninth place Western Conference

Actual Finish: 21-61, fifth place Pacific Division, fourteenth place Western Conference

2014/2015 Finish

Actual 2014/2015 Finish

Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 98.5 (19th)
  • Points Allowed: 105.3 (29th)
  • Team FG%: .435 (25th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .466 (29th)
  • Team FT%: .741 (23rd)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .344 (17th)
  • Rebounds per game: 43.9 (12th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 44.2(22nd)
  • Turnovers per game: 12.6 (6th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 12.4 (25th)

Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Kobe Bryant (22.3)
  • Rebounds per game:  Jordan Hill (7.9)
  • Minutes per game: Kobe Bryant (34.5)
  • Assists per game:  Kobe Bryant (5.6)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Ed Davis (.601)
  • Free Throw Percentage: Nick Young (.890)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Wayne Ellington (.370)
  • Steals per game: Ronnie Price (1.6)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Ed Davis (1.2)

SDH’s Hero to Honor: +Jeremy Lin 

If there was ever someone who deserved to receive a medal for courage under fire it has to be this guy, because throughout the Lakers' abysmal season, Jeremy Lin had been unfairly put under the microscope by not only the media, but fans as well.  After such a meteoric rise three years ago which made him a international phenomenon, Lin crashed back to Earth hard as he failed time and time again to bring back the "Linsanity;" nevertheless, he continued to push on despite being discarded by the +Houston Rockets and being the constant whipping boy of not just the media and fans, but also his teammate, +Kobe Bryant.  Through it all he remained poised, kept his composure and did not let the negativity rattle him as he did his best to do what he can to contribute in order to keep that sinking ship of a team afloat.  What is even more ominous for him is the fact that with  his contract has expired, all the unfair critiques and negative press will adversely affect his future chances to not only return with the Lakers, but also every other NBA team for that matter.  There is no doubt that "Linsanity" was over before it even started, but strip away all the hype and press fall out, there is still a viable NBA player who can contribute to any team if given the chance to prove himself--hopefully, he will still have one.    

SDH’s Face to Forget: +Kobe Bryant 

Yeah sure, he finished this season as third all time NBA leader in scoring knocking down his revered idol +Michael Jordan off his pedestal, but that was the only bright spot for a player that looked way over the hill and did more to hurt his team than actually help it.  Kobe Bryant was a complete mess on both ends of the floor--despite him leading the team in scoring, he did so while shooting an abysmal .373 from the field and let us not forget about his presence and effort on the defensive end; however, it was not his poor performance on the court, but his poisonous presence off the court which has placed him in infamy.  Instead of being the teacher and mentor many hoped he would be encouraging his teammates and providing a comforting presence in the team's most desperate hour, he was actually the source of all the negativity and simply made an already bad situation worse.  In the locker room and on the practice floor, he would constantly berate and belittle his teammates while providing little or nothing else and head coach Byron Scott simply allowed him to continue with his declining play and his poisonous attitude until Bryant finally decided to shut it down after playing just 35 games.  Perhaps it is time for both the Lakers and Kobe to finally part ways, finally buy him out using that league mandated four year stretch provision as a going away present, because it has become strikingly apparent that staying another season will simply cause more harm than good.  

The 2014 NBA Season must have been the most traumatic in recent memory not only to +Los Angeles Lakers fans, but also to the sporting world in general as they all say this once great titan not only fall from grace but crash and burst into flames leaving many feeling violated and emotionally damaged.  First the team lost +Dwight Howard as a free agent after virtually selling its soul in the off season, then had to endure +Kobe Bryant missing that entire season, and finally had to trudge through the season beaten and worn down to finish with a franchise low 27 wins; however like true champions, the team would not take this sitting down.  That's why team General Manager Mitch Kupchak went about overhauling the team replacing the tired and worn down +Pau Gasol, who left for the +Chicago Bulls, and picked up +Carlos Boozer, a player who the Bulls waived in order to get Gasol and also acquired some much needed fresh blood picking up +Jeremy Lin in a trade with the +Houston Rockets that also netted them another first round pick and an underrated yet effective Ed Davis for a rather minimal cost.  Add the re-signing of fan favorite Nick Young, as well as the return of the Black Mamba himself, the Lakers looked to bounce back from that abysmal season and although they may not make the post season, at least they could not do any worse that they did last year.  The probability of such a storied sports brand with such a rich history, let alone any other team. finishing worse than 27 wins that the team scrounged up last year would be slim at best as there was nowhere else to go but up . . . or so everyone thought.

Fast forward to this season and what was once seen as a statistical improbability became a sick and tragic reality as the predictable Lakers comeback to the NBA spotlight had not only once again fallen short, but actually managed to dip even lower with one of the most recognizable sport brands in the world winning six games less than they did the previous season.  What many considered as the team's rock bottom point actually became the precursor of an even more devastating collapse as fans of the Purple and Gold watched in horror as their team went from being extremely bad to even worse than they have even seen their once proud team before.  The supposed moves that were supposed to uplift the team simply fell apart as Boozer proved his former team right for casting him aside as the three time All Star would have quite possibly the worst season in his career while ironically, the guy who they replaced him for ended up having his career revived in the Windy City.  Jeremy Lin proved once again that "Linsanity" was finally dead and was never going to be resuscitated while Nick Young, after having such a heroic performance in 2014 that made him not only a fan favorite, but a leader on the team, completely vanished over the course of the season.  The final blow came with Kobe Bryant, who after signing a two year extension paying him up to 50$ million, arrived onto the court a shell of his former greatness, became more a hindrance than  a help both on and off the court, and exited early unceremoniously due to injury leaving every one who had idolized him at one one time or another with a bad taste in their mouths.

In a season where no one thought it could get any lower that it already was, the LA Lakers managed to surpass even the worst projections and expectation turning a once proud franchise that can be considered as a model for all professional sports teams to following into an absolute disgrace and laughing stock.  As that was not shameful enough, the Lakers were forced to watch their onetime doormat of a rival, the +Los Angeles Clippers, take away their title as Kings of Los Angeles with their horrid looking red, white and blue uniforms, and used the team that had oppressed and had stood in their shadow for so long them for so long not only to wipe their feet, but also their backsides at the same time.  Even the lowly +Sacramento Kings, a team that has spent so much time wallowing at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings for the past few years, managed to use the Lakers as a stepping stone from out of the bottom leaving a team who no one thought could ever suffer such indignity to wallow in the same pit of despair that they had so long avoided.  Just a couple years before, fans and the media would have considered finishing with a low playoff seeding in the west and an early first round exit as the lowest that the Lakers could ever fall, but sadly this fall from grace is only the beginning for this once proud franchise that was so impervious to damage that it could have been considered as infallible.  Not even the prospect of having a the potential of acquiring the number one overall pick in this summer's upcoming draft or having the most cap space and money to woo free agents in the off season can offset the earth shattering impact from the Lakers' fall from grace nor will they be able to regain their once prominent role among the NBA's elite anytime soon, either.       

The whole landscape of the Western Conference has completely flipped over placing teams that were once on the top of the mountain crushed under mounds of dirt and rock while teams who barely received any daylight and such as the Clippers and the +Golden State Warriors have emerged in the fore front with the spotlight now shining on them.  The Lakers will have to dig their way out form under miles of rubble and debris and in a conference where it took 45 wins to get the eighth and final playoff berth in the West, do not expect them to break through and see daylight anytime soon because already, there are five or six teams that have placed themselves firmly in the Western Conference playoff landscape and they do not look to be moving away from their spots anytime soon.   The Western Conference resembles a relatively inert caste system where power rest in very few hands--in this case, the six or seven team that have at least 50 wins to make the playoffs--and the rest who are simply fighting for the scraps that have been left over; ironically, however, it was the Lakers themselves whom created and profited greatly from this system over the past few decades, and now the time has come for some poetic justice after having so many opponents crushed under their feet for so long.  Sadly, for now, all that they have left to stay somewhat relevant in the league and in the minds of sports fans is their illustrious history and lasting legacy they have imprinted on the sports world; however, if they rely on that, they run the chance of falling into the same trap as their former longtime rival +Boston Celtics have sadly slipped into--with both the organization and fans being stuck so far in the past that they never move forward.

It took centuries for the World's Greatest Empires such as Rome, Greece, the Great Chinese Dynasties, and the Ottomans to come crashing down and just like them, the Lakers lie in the rubble now wiped away by the annals of history probably never to be seen again; however, unlike those past empire that grew too big and ending up crashing upon their own weight, the Lakers have a chance to rebuild themselves and hopefully return to the greatness and acclaim that they once relished.  Unfortunately, looking at the league now, especially almost impregnable Western Conference, it will take a very long time, perhaps even a decade for the Lakers to return to its once opulent position it once enjoyed, and it will take a lot of patience on the part of their fans, as well as plenty of trial and error on the part of the team's front office and coaching staff for that team to even have a chance to do so.   Once thing for certain, it will not happen under the tenure of current coach Byron Scott, who proved to be absolutely awful, but may stay longer than he should because of the organization's unwillingness to let go of the past and accept the fact that the time for their team has long passed.  Another dead weight that also keeps the Lakers tethered to the past and unable to remake themselves is that 25$ million dollar dinosaur that refuses to let go of the reins and the reality that he is no longer among the league's elite players anymore.  Until they can shed all that baggage, it will just be one bad season after the other with fans clutching to the past because they no longer have anything to hope for in the future.