Coming into the 2012-2013 NBA season, expectations were high for the Los Angeles Lakers. Many people, including ourselves, had L.A. contending for the title this year. And why not since they added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to an already strong cast that featured Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Antwan Jamison.
But after being swept by the San Antonio Spurs in a highly noncompetitive series, those lofty preseason expectations seem light-years away. The closest that the Lakers managed to get during this matchup was a 9-point loss in Game 2. And the blowout playoff losses seemed like the perfect way to cap what’s been one of the most disappointing and worst seasons for a team in NBA history.
Sure Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles at the end of the regular season limited this club’s ability to compete with the Spurs. But that only explains the playoffs, and not the drastically underachieving team that finally secured a playoff spot in the last week of the season.
People were quick to dismiss awful preseason performances that saw the Lakers go winless. However, panic quickly set in after a 1-4 start that led to the firing of head coach Mike Brown. By late January, the team was 17-25 and in serious danger of missing the playoffs.
If there’s any silver lining to this season, it’s that L.A. did rally to go 28-12 over the second half and grab the Western Conference’s seventh seed. However, this is of little solace to Lakers fans who thought that the team stood a good chance of grabbing the 17th NBA Championship in franchise history.
So where did everything go wrong? Well for starters, Mike Brown’s decision to implement the Princeton offense was never popular from the get-go. Skepticism was warranted too as the team made a large number of turnovers in the early going.
Compounding problems was the fact that Howard missed most of the preseason and never got into the new offense. Additionally, Nash would miss most of December and January with a broken leg, thus adding to the team chemistry issues.
When Mike D’Antoni entered the picture as the Lakers’ new coach, things only got more complicated. Now the team was learning a more uptempo offense, with Howard and Gasol struggling to find their place. Gasol especially suffered and even lost his spot in the starting lineup to unheralded Earl Clark for a short while. The 7-footer also missed 33 games during the year in one of his most injury-plagued seasons ever.
So based on the injuries and lack of team chemistry, it’s a bit easier to see why Los Angeles had such a disastrous year. But management is not going to be accepting excuses this offseason, and some major changes are definitely expected.
Howard could re-sign with the Lakers next year after averaging 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 2.45 BPG. He’d likely earn $117.9 million over five years with L.A., as opposed to an $87.6 million, four-year deal with any other team. However, nothing is guaranteed since the talented shot-blocker is intent on testing free agency waters.
The Lakers also have plenty of payroll issues to deal with next season because Bryant is due $30 million, Gasol is set to receive $19 million, Nash would earn $9 million and World Peace is due $7.7 million – all before Howard is even signed. Based on these huge contracts, it’s a good bet that one of these stars will have to go.
Bryant appears to be the only certainty out of the five stars as he’s the face of the franchise and leading scorer. The Lakers would no doubt like to have Howard back too – if possible – so this leaves Gasol, Nash and World Peace left to discuss.
Gasol had some strong games to close out the year after tallying several triple-doubles. Plus he finally looked more comfortable in D’Antoni’s offense at the end. However, the Spaniard also has a player option for the $19 million and could be released. World Peace is in the same player option boat, but could stay on due to the fact that he’s only set to earn $7.7 million.
Considering all of this, it’s possible that we’ll be seeing a different Lakers team take the floor next year. And the big question is if they can put together a lineup that not only stays healthy, but also plays well together.