COMMENTARY | Depending on whose side you're on, the Los Angeles Lakers' 2013-14 season is either a disappointment or a glorious case of sweet justice after years of perpetual dominance.
Either way, the Lakers aren't very good this season.
But that fact alone may not put their season in the category of disastrous. That would have to be more along the lines of the 2012-13 campaign in which a supposed super-team led by Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash was supposed to take the Purple and Gold into the promised land for the 17th time.
Instead, they almost missed the playoffs and got destroyed in the first round and subsequently saw the future of their franchise in the post-Kobe era bolt for less money.
That was a disaster of epic proportions. This year is a season of transition and a necessary evil of playing in the large-market, high-roller sandbox in the new landscape of the NBA.
But that doesn't mean things can't get worse. Here are five ways this season could turn out even worse:
1. Andrew Bynum signs as a free agent
The Dwightmare is finally over, and though the Lakers aren't better for it by a long shot (Howard is averaging 17.9 points and 12.5 rebounds per game to go along with 1.8 blocked shots), the accompanying circus he brought with him is gone.
If Bynum were to come back to Los Angeles, it would be more of the same and there would be plenty of attention on him for non-basketball reasons. There was talk of a potential salary dump taking place where L.A. would release him after a trade, but that window has passed since the Chicago Bulls acquired him from the Cleveland Cavaliers and took advantage of the savings by immediately waiving him.
He's since cleared waivers and any team can sign him, including the Lakers.
First off, they wouldn't, but if Bynum were to come back to the Lakers' front court, it would be a bizarre stamp on another anomaly of a season.
2. The Rockets win the title
There's no love lost between the Lakers and Howard, and that was apparent when his girlfriend sported some Laker-hating gear during their last meeting. James Harden thinks Howard is enough to put them over the top, and, if that happens, Los Angeles will go into a frenzy.
This turn of events would be more ironic than disastrous for the Lakers, but the latter would apply as well. It was already hard enough for Lakers stakeholders to watch last offseason's most coveted player take less money to play in Houston.
Watching the Rockets win it all because Howard put them over the top as Harden indicated he could? That would be beyond insult to injury. If Howard has any significant role in a Rockets' title (which he obviously would), it would be another crippling blow to the Lakers' brand.
3. L.A. rallies to narrowly make the playoffs, misses lottery
The giant silver lining of being bad this season is the fact that the 2014 NBA draft class is ripe with talent, especially in the lottery. With Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker primed to begin their pro careers this summer, the Lakers figure to get a franchise cornerstone should they get enough ping pong balls in David Stern's machine.
But what if they get zero ping pong balls because they surge into the playoffs and miss out on a lottery pick? For a team that has virtually no chance of conquering the NBA's elite even at full strength, that would be a disaster.
4. Chris Paul leads the Clippers to glory
Stern crippled the Lakers when he nixed the trade that would've sent Paul to the Lakers. Since then, Gasol, who was included in the deal, hasn't been the same player. The Lakers have since had constant personnel issues and are stuck with a number of aging stars with no clear path to the future of the franchise.
If Paul and the Doc Rivers-led Clips find a way to win the title, it'll take away the Lakers' "RINGZ" argument in the increasingly bitter rivalry. In addition, seeing Rivers hoist another trophy up in Los Angeles would be a gruesome sight for Lakers fans who remember him doing the very same in 2008.
And then there's Paul, the could-have-been heir apparent to Bryant. With the Lakers desperately thin at point guard, watching the best one in the game lead a team to its first title would be a twist that rivaled any Hollywood drama.
5. Brian Shaw wins Coach of the Year
While the Lakers may still be searching for their player of the future, their choice for coach of the future for better or worse was Mike D'Antoni. It could've (and many feel should've) been Shaw, who was a former champion as a player and longtime assistant under Phil Jackson. The Lakers had more than one opportunity to bring Shaw in as a homegrown head coach, but it's likely they didn't want to risk the potential growing pains associated with bringing in a first-year man.
Shaw has the Nuggets playing well this year, they're not a surprise team by any means, and they could get hot at any time. During a time of major front-office change and relative instability, if the Nuggets make any substantial playoff run, it could mean plenty of recognition for Shaw.
It would also leave Lakers fans wondering what he could've done with L.A.'s roster if given a shot, especially with the talent of 2012-13's squad.
Catch up with Michael C. Jones on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.
Michael C. Jones is a Southern California-based journalist and was Yahoo's 2012 Contributor of the Year. He is the founding editor of Sports Out West and also contributes to SB Nation.
Statistics via Basketball-reference.com.
- Sports & Recreation
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Dwight Howard