Los Angeles Lakers: Franchise in Unfamiliar Territory

Todd PheiferAnalyst IIIJanuary 27, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Kobe Bryant #24, Dwight Howard #12 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers react to a blocking foul on Chris Duhon #21 during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center on November 27, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  The Pacers won 79-77.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are not having a good season, and the road ahead may have a few more bumps before success is found again.

This is not a familiar situation for a franchise that is used to winning.

There was a definitive plan to keep this team heading in the right direction, but somehow this team has struggled to assemble the pieces into a winning formula in 2012-13.

If you look at the history of the Lakers going back to the Showtime era, there have been a number of fortunate events that have helped the team maintain success over a long period of time.

The Showtime era was clearly a successful time for the Lakers, as fans enjoyed Magic, Kareem and “Big Game James.” After a brief lull, the team finds itself with a young Kobe Bryant, either due to the brilliance or luck of Jerry West.

Shaquille O’Neal is enticed to come to Los Angeles and work on his movie career. More NBA titles are won.

The Diesel leaves, but somehow the Lakers convince the Memphis Grizzlies to give them Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown. That trade is still a complete mystery.

Regardless, Gasol arrives. More championships.

As the team starts to age, there is the inevitable expectation that another star must be coming soon. Who comes next? Dwight Howard, come on down!

This offseason should have been the next step in maintaining the greatness of the Lakers. Dwight Howard and Steve Nash arrive. The team chases more titles before Kobe Bryant says goodbye. Howard signs a long-term deal and Los Angeles uses its geographic advantage to attract another high-profile star to pair with Dwight.

All is well with Lakers Nation.

The plan was good, and the Lakers wouldn’t have had to trifle with the normal decline and rebuilding process that is experienced by just about every other team in the NBA. After all, the Lakers deserve to be contenders every year, right?

At the midpoint of this season, the plan has gone awry. The Lakers are losing, and the games they win are against inferior talent. Los Angeles cannot find a way to beat the elite teams of the NBA anymore.

Instead of a long-term deal, trade rumors for Dwight Howard have started up again (via NBC Sports). When it comes to the coverage of sports, the validity of these whispers is somewhat irrelevant. The rumors are out there, and as long as the Lakers are losing, they are unlikely to go away.

Hindsight, of course, is always 20-20. The Lakers have done deals over the last couple of years that were intended to maintain a championship roster.

Kobe Bryant was not going to tolerate being part of a rebuilding process.

In exchange, the Lakers gave away a number of future draft opportunities. From the team’s standpoint, these picks were not going to be particularly valuable anyway.


Now that the team may miss the playoffs, those draft picks are starting to look a little bit more valuable. Until Los Angeles sheds the contracts of Kobe, Pau and other high-paid stars, it will be in no position to chase free agents.

That leaves the draft, but as noted by ESPN, the Lakers have essentially mortgaged the future in order to win in the moment. The only way the Lakers get draft picks is to trade current players.

This may have worked in the past when the team was younger, but now the Lakers are a collection of huge contracts and older bench players that seemingly get switched out every year for other old players.

Can the Lakers really rebuild? Perhaps that is the wrong question.

Do the Lakers even know how to rebuild anymore?