Russell Westbrook was supposed to be the answer for the Los Angeles Lakers. The LA native who played at UCLA was expected to leave the Thunder next summer -- just like Kevin Durant did this offseason -- and help return the Lakers to championship glory. But Westbrook opted to stay with Oklahoma City, reworking his current deal this week while adding two more years. Here are the top five recent setbacks that have left Lakers mired in mediocrity.
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Not re-signing Dwight Howard
Looking back on it now, this was a blessing in disguise for the Lakers. Howard hasn’t been the same dominant big man he was in Orlando after suffering a back injury in 2012. But, in the summer of 2013, he was the first big-name free agent the Lakers failed to re-sign, which seems to have started a trend that has transformed them from free-agent destination to undesirable landing spot.
Kobe Bryant tearing his Achilles'
Many believe Kobe Bryant’s final game occurred April 13, 2013, the day he tore his Achilles' in his left leg. That season, Bryant was averaging 27.3 points on 46 percent shooting -- numbers he would never replicate after the injury. It’s no coincidence that the Lakers failed to make the playoffs each of the following three seasons, establishing franchise lows for wins each year.
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Not bringing back Phil Jackson
It appeared that Phil Jackson was going to return for a third stint as Lakers head coach in 2012. L.A. had fired Mike Brown five games into the 2012-13 season, leaving the franchise searching for a permanent replacement. But just as it looked like the Zen Master was back with the Lake Show, owner Jim Buss stunned the basketball world -- and Jackson himself -- by hiring Mike D’Antoni. Jackson eventually joined the Knicks as president of basketball operations while the Lakers have tried in vain to recapture their former glory.
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Not winning the lottery in 2015
The Lakers might already have a franchise player in tow if they had edged the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No. 1 pick in 2015. Karl-Anthony Towns was the prize of that draft, and so far he’s lived up to expectations, averaging 18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds on his way to Rookie of the Year honors. The Lakers took D’Angelo Russell, who struggled to get consistent playing time last season, ahead of Kristaps Porzingis, who ended up with Phil Jackson and the Knicks. Russell looked good in summer league last month, so maybe this pans out. But for now, it was yet another example of Lady Luck not going the Lakers’ way.
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Failing to land a marquee free agent
What’s not to love about Los Angeles? The weather is perfect, endorsements are plentiful and the city loves its Lakers. So why have the Lakers struck out in free agency recently? Players are in win-now mode, not looking to be part of a rebuild process. So the Lakers were stuck this summer overpaying for Timofey Mozgov instead of having a chance at landing Kevin Durant, who declined to even give them a face-to-face meeting. These days, L.A. is stuck building the franchise like a small-market team -- through the draft -- until it begins to show signs of life.