COMMENTARY | The 2014 NBA All-Star game came and went, and one element missing was the gold standard of the league's franchises -- the Los Angeles Lakers.
As Kobe Bryant continues to work his way back onto the floor while rehabbing from a fracture in his knee, he failed to suit up for the game, and the heir apparent to his place as the best shooting guard in the game, James Harden, took his place.
When speaking at a press conference prior to the game, his tone was reflective to the point of concern for those who want to see the Lakers legend back in elite form. He was candid when the question came up as to whether or not he'd be forced out of the game by injuries:
"To have those conversations with yourself and not be intimidated by that and not succumb to that is part of the challenge," Bryant said in the interview room before the All-Star Game, which he is missing as he recovers from a fractured leg. "It's really the biggest challenge. Maybe this is the end, but then again, maybe it's not. And it's my responsibility to do all that I can to make sure that it's not."
In a bit of irony, the team known for fusing together entertainment and the beautiful game of basketball wasn't represented as the best players took the center stage while surrounded by some of the most well-known entertainers in the music industry. The show was on, and the purple-and-gold were nowhere to be found, except for Kobe, that is, sitting on the sidelines next to the legends of yesteryear.
No rising stars?
It wasn't a shock that the Lakers had zero young players represented in the Rising Stars precursor to the All-Star tilt. They've made no mistake in mortgaging the future of the organization for instant gratification in the form of the Dwight Howard and Steve Nash acquisitions that cost them valuable draft picks. In a fact indicative of just how dismal the state of affairs has become for the Lakers, they haven't had a home grown All-Star since Andrew Bynum made his only appearance in the mid-season classic.
The problem with the lack of young talent is obvious. The Lakers banked on having veteran talent in the very least. Their biggest organizational asset is cap space and a single pick in a talent-ripe 2014 draft that could net them a future impact player.
They'll need that pick to pan out and hope a big-name free agent is willing to sign with Los Angeles. In the past, that hadn't been a problem; after the Dwightmare of last offseason where the most coveted free agent spurned the Lakers for less money, anything is possible.
The show must go on, and it did
The main event continued, and the Lakers weren't around for the festivities, save Bryant's PR appearance. But the scariest things for Lakers fans banking on the fact that they have more tricks up their sleeve in the personnel department was that one of the best individual performances of the day was put on by Los Angeles Clippers star forward Blake Griffin, a player whose team shares a building with the Lakers. If that weren't enough, the talent was on display all evening long, and the league appears to be in good hands without the Lakers being good.
The narrative of the league moving comfortably along without Bryant and the Lakers is indicative of the way the 2013-14 season's gone in that respect. The Lakers are bad -- extremely so -- and no one's talking about it. LeBron James and the Miami Heat, the emergence of Paul George and the preparedness of Kevin Durant to attempt to supplant King James as the league's alpha dog are all more compelling stories.
It was the single most depressing factor for the purple-and-gold faithful: The league's biggest showcase next to the NBA Finals went on, and there was no Lakers representation.
That doesn't happen, but it did during All-Star Weekend in 2014.
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
- Kobe Bryant