COMMENTARY | The Los Angeles Lakers of today don't look like those of your father. In fact, they aren't your little sister's Lakers, either.
Things have changed when it comes to the Purple and Gold, and the Lakers don't resemble the past champions of just four years ago by a long shot. In fact, they barely look like an NBA team, even less so after trading veteran Steve Blake for D-Leaguers Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks.
That kind of move is subtle in terms of impact, but uncharacteristic of the team that's made winning in bunches a standard. The trade deadline is the time where the Lakers have in the past made major moves to bolster their playoff chances. They aren't usually cap-savers as they showed on Thursday.
But that's not the only thing that the Lakers have done differently over the past two seasons.
Several factors have contributed to the anomaly that has been the Lakers' journey over that stretch. Here's a brief recap of some of the lowlights (there isn't enough room for all of them):
- In the summer of 2012, Los Angeles acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in hopes of adding banner No. 17 to the rafters.
- Mike Brown was fired five games into the season.
- After flirting with the idea of hiring Phil Jackson, the Lakers decided to go with Mike D'Antoni, igniting outrage among fans and former players such as Magic Johnson
- Nash broke his leg on a freak play in the Lakers' second game of the season when he collided with Blazers guard Damian Lillard.
- Dwight Howard played hurt for an entire season, one in which the Lakers struggled to a first-round playoff exit that same year. They were crushed as their hopes in retaining him as a cornerstone for the future left with him when he chose to sign with the Houston Rockets. All of this was despite the Lakers' ability to pay him the highest salary.
- Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles' as the Lakers were preparing to embark upon said playoff run, just as they were coming together as a group.
- Six games into Bryant's return, the NBA legend suffered a fracture in his knee.
- Xavier Henry, Blake, Nash, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Jodie Meeks each missed significant time after all the aforementioned players showed substantial progress.
- Nash has been rendered ineffective and unable to stay on the court.
- Los Angeles is on the way to its worst season to date and in the midst of a record home losing streak that's totaled eight games at the time of publication.
- The Lakers put out feelers on acquiring Kevin Love and nearly acquired Evan Turner, but instead of acquiring the big name or anyone of substance, they cut costs by trading Blake during one of his most productive seasons.
The blocked Chris Paul trade
It's impossible to measure the impact of the trade David Stern disallowed that would've sent All-Star Chris Paul to the Lakers. Paul is a young player who would have been a natural successor to be the face of the franchise after Kobe hangs it up.
Instead, the trade was blocked and the Lakers had to go back to the drawing board while watching Paul lead the Clippers into uncharted territory for their franchise. They acquired Nash and Howard the following offseason before things went horribly wrong.
The 2011 CBA
The new landscape of the NBA has made the Lakers change the way they do business. Luxury tax penalties have increased enough to make the biggest taxpayers such as the Lakers think twice about spending at will. Even with a $3 billion television deal, the Lakers are watching their spending and posturing for the years when they will have cap space as early as 2014-15.
The number of Lakers injuries over the past two seasons has been incredible. So much so, that L.A. literally ran out of players against the Cleveland Cavaliers early this year. The year of redemption for Bryant and his teammates to prove everyone wrong and show how much fight they have has turned into more of the same disastrous results.
The Lakers are firmly entrenched inside the proverbial tank. But that's precisely where they should be under the circumstances. That leads to the final point...
The giant silver lining
The 2014 NBA draft class is projected to be one of the best in recent memory -- and the Lakers actually have their first-round pick this season! It's their only one until the 2016 draft as they shed the others in deals to acquire Nash and Howard, including their first-round selection in 2017.
But the Lakers will have something else of value in the new NBA -- cap space. Over the next two, they'll have major salary coming off the books and some flexibility to bring in talent, but their best chance at acquiring a future star might be in the draft following this season.
New life is their only hope, and it's a culmination of those odd circumstances that led one of the greatest franchises in sports history to this point.
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.
- Sports & Recreation
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Steve Nash
- Dwight Howard