Rock bottom? A timeline of the fall of the modern Lakers
July 2011: Lockout spells big cuts to Lakers staff
Coming off a second-round sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 playoffs, the NBA lockout might have provided the Lakers an opportunity to regroup. Instead, the team cut ties with members of the staff across the board -- trainers, scouts, and even the assistant general manager, who put the onus on the Buss family: 'Mitch wants to bring me back, but he can't get the Busses [Jerry and Jim] to agree to bring me back,' Ronnie Lester told the LA Times. The Lakers' ability to assess talent took a hit in 2011, and the franchise is still feeling the effects.
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December 2011: The trade that wasn't rocks a franchise
Beyond front-office turmoil, the true genesis of the Lakers' current struggles is the vetoed Chris Paul trade. Some might question whether Paul is a 'winner,' given his track record with the Los Angeles Clippers. But he was the best point guard in the league in 2011, and he and Kobe Bryant would have comprised the NBA's best backcourt. Instead, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol felt betrayed by the move, things fell apart, and the Lakers had to move on to other plans -- plans that involved Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
NBAE/Getty ImagesAndrew D. Bernstein
March 2012: The beginning of a draft-pick exodus
The present in L.A. could be much brighter if it weren't for a couple of convoluted trades. In the wake of the failed Paul deal, the Lakers acquired Ramon Sessions from the Cavaliers for Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and their 2012 first-round pick. In a separate trade, the Lakers also dealt Derek Fisher to the Rockets for Jordan Hill. It was another veteran from L.A.'s title teams cast aside, and left the Lakers without a first-round draft pick in 2012. The transactions followed pointed criticisms from Kobe Bryant and the now infamous report on a Lakers scout by the name of Chaz, a friend of Jim Buss' whom one NBA exec called a 'great bartender.'
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Summer 2012: 'Now this is going to be fun'
This was supposed to be the restoration of the Lakers' glory. First, the team dealt Andrew Bynum as part of a four-team, 11-player deal that netted Dwight Howard. Then, the Lakers turned a 2013 first-round pick and a protected 2015 first-rounder into one of the greatest point guards ever in Steve Nash. Both moves failed miserably. Howard, coming off season-ending back surgery the previous April, clashed with coaches and with Kobe Bryant, and he never seemed fully healthy. Nash, meanwhile, played just 67 total games for the Lakers, including two playoff appearances.
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November 2012: Coaching triangle reaches a messy conclusion
After a 1-4 start to the 2012-13 season, the Lakers fired coach Mike Brown on a Friday. Over the ensuing weekend, the team reportedly engaged in conversations with Phil Jackson to return to the bench in L.A. before settling on Mike D'Antoni by Sunday night. Jeannie Buss (who was and is in a relationship with Jackson) later called the decision to hire D'Antoni over Jackson a 'betrayal.' D'Antoni was never truly accepted by the Lakers and their fans, however, and he lasted just two seasons with the team. His fast-paced, floor-spreading style didn't dovetail with the roster, which featured talented post players in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
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January 2013: D'Antoni clashes with bigs, benches Pau
Things came to a head for D'Antoni as Lakers coach shortly before the All-Star break, as he benched Gasol for six straight games at the end of January. Gasol wasn't particularly keen on the decision, which drew an exasperated reaction from D'Antoni: 'Well, you know, 'all for one' didn't last long, did it?' After D'Antoni's comments, Gasol would reclaim his spot in the starting lineup, thanks in part to a stretch of rest for Dwight Howard.
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February 2013: Dr. Jerry Buss passes away
Buss had been hospitalized for most of the previous year and a half, and the team had been preparing by transitioning much of the day-to-day basketball duties to his children, Jeanie and Jim. But there was no way the team or the NBA could truly steel itself for the loss of such a titan. 'The NBA has lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come,' commissioner David Stern said at a memorial for Buss. 'More importantly, we have lost a dear and valued friend.' And the Lakers lost their compass as an organization.
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April 2013: Everything changes with Kobe's Achilles injury
There were indications that the Lakers as constructed for the 2012-13 season weren't championship contenders. But any hope went out the window when Bryant tore the Achilles tendon in his left leg against the Golden State Warriors just days before the start of the 2013 playoffs. Bryant, ever the fighter, literally tried to pull the tendon back up after the tear. And he managed to knock down two free throws before exiting the floor for good that night. Bryant was never the same after the injury, which compounded the previous missteps by the Lakers.
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July 2013: Howard flees, World Peace set free
Despite giant signage asking him to 'STAY,' Dwight Howard left L.A. in free agency, signing with the Rockets. It marked the end of the Lakers' most recent bid to win a sixth ring for Kobe Bryant, and the team cleaned house in the aftermath. Metta World Peace was waived. Only Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre remained on the roster from the previous season. Gone were Chris Duhon, Andrew Goudelock, Antawn Jamison and more, replaced by Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, Kendall Marshall, Ryan Kelly, Chris Kaman and Xavier Henry, among others.
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Late 2013: Kobe's last deal is a precursor to more pain
Kobe Bryant has been worth every penny over the years to the Lakers. In fact, he's probably generated more value than he's been paid over the course of his career. So it's tough to begrudge Bryant his last deal, which reportedly was worth $48.5 million. On the other hand, by taking such a hefty payday, Bryant limited the Lakers' ability to pursue free agents. The fact of the matter is the NBA has a salary cap. Other veterans, such as Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, took discounts in order to help their teams get better. Bryant took a different path. All of that was superfluous, however, when Bryant made his return from his Achilles injury in December 2013 -- until he fractured a bone in his left knee just 5 games into his return, sidelining him for the rest of the season.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY SportsJustin Ford
Spring 2014: Jackson rumors swirl before D'Antoni leaves town
The marriage between Mike D'Antoni and the Lakers simply never worked. By the end of his second season with the team, it was clear that a change was necessary. And once again, reports linked L.A. with Phil Jackson. This time, however, there was more smoke than fire. Despite several reported meetings with the Buss family, Jackson took a job with the Knicks, to the disappointment of Lakers fans, a move D'Antoni called 'a good fit.' As for his own fit, D'Antoni walked away from the head-coaching gig with the Lakers in May, leaving the franchise searching for a new leader.
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June 2014: The first signs of a new hope emerge
Thanks to the Ramon Sessions and Steve Nash trades, the Lakers were without a first-round draft pick in both 2012 and 2013. With the seventh overall pick the 2014 draft, though, the Lakers selected Julius Randle. Randle represented the best of both worlds: A big man with a solid post game and the kind of versatility necessary for forwards to thrive in today's NBA. Marcus Smart might have made sense here, too, but Randle was as close to a slam-dunk pick as the Lakers have had in a long time. With a rebuild clearly on the horizon, this seemed like a good start.
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July 2014: Multiple interview lead to Scott; Gasol exits
The search for the next Lakers head coach lasted three months, with Byron Scott being interviewed at least three times before the team settled on the former Lakers player as their coach. A week before the hiring, however, Pau Gasol finally ended his time with the Lakers, opting to go to the Bulls in free agency. Trade rumors had floated around Gasol since the vetoed Chris Paul trade, but in the end, the Lakers ended up losing him for nothing in return.
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October 2014: Nash's career reaches abrupt end
The acquisition of Steve Nash is arguably the worst move in modern Lakers history. Not only did he fail to live up to expectations, the deal cost the Lakers their 2013 first-round pick, and their 2016 first-rounder is on the line too, owed to the 76ers (via a Suns-Sixers-Bucks trade) if Los Angeles ends up outside of the top three in the upcoming draft. And less heralded but equally foreboding is the Lakers' 2018 draft situation. If they do convey their 2016 pick to the Sixers, they also owe a top-five protected pick in 2018 to the Magic, stretching back to the Dwight Howard deal. So there's even more incentive for the Lakers to keep their pick this year than you might already have thought.
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October 2014: Randle's rookie season comes crashing down
Kobe Bryant was back, Julius Randle was set to take the floor, and 2014-15 was looking up. Until, that is, Byron Scott started Carlos Boozer over Randle in the Lakers' season opener. Even that probably would have been OK, but disaster struck once Randle did check in to his first career game. Midway through the fourth quarter, after playing just 14 minutes, Randle broke the tibia in his right leg. He missed the rest of the season, turning him into a de facto rookie during the 2015-16 season.
AFP/Getty ImagesROBYN BECK
January 2015: Injuries keep piling up for Kobe
In December 2014, Bryant battled soreness, fatigue and the general effects of the wear and tear on his body. He missed three consecutive games to rest, then missed an additional three games before his body once again failed him. Against the New Orleans Pelicans, Bryant tore his right rotator cuff, an injury which required season-ending surgery and a nine-month rehabilitation. He was unable even to shoot a basketball until August 2015, a moment which Bryant commemorated on his Instagram account.
Getty ImagesStacy Revere
January-March 2015: Buss family feud -- a public ultimatum
With the loss of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers reached the lowest point in what would be the team's worst season ever. And questions about the state of the franchise went to the very top of the masthead. Jeanie Buss told reporters that her brother, Jim, had laid out a three-year timeline during which the Lakers would make their way back into playoff contention -- the Western Conference finals, specifically. If not, Jim said, he would step down. It's an ultimatum to which Jeanie has repeatedly said she will hold her brother.
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June 2015: Moving past the worst season ever
The Lakers weren't alone in their struggles in 2014-15. But Los Angeles and the New York Knicks posted their worst regular seasons in team history. Yet the 2015 draft might prove to be the difference in the future for these storied franchises. Public reports indicated that the Lakers were considering both D'Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor with the second overall pick. The Lakers went with Russell, who's struggled to find consistent minutes under coach Scott. The Knicks' pick, Kristaps Porzingis, on the other hand, has taken the NBA by storm. Lakers fans are forgiven if they're wondering what might have been.
NBAE/Getty ImagesJennifer Pottheiser
July 2015: Big swings, big misses in free agency
With big names on the market this past summer, the Lakers were aggressive in free agency. Unfortunately, they came up short, particularly in their pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge has denied reports that Kobe Bryant's presence in his first meeting with the Lakers was a deterrent to his signing in Los Angeles, and he did grant the team a second meeting. The Lakers made a minor play for DeAndre Jordan, as well. In the end, though, the team had to make due with Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams, Brandon Bass and the re-signing of Metta World Peace.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY SportsGary A. Vasquez
Today: The end of the road for Kobe
With the Lakers off to yet another awful start -- this one even worse through 20 games than last season -- it's worth wondering if this is in fact the very bottom. The team needs to finish last in the NBA to ensure the best odds of keeping the 2016 first-round draft pick. They're well on their way, 'trailing' the Sixers by just two wins so far. And so, the Lakers go through the motions of another season, saved from total ignominy by the announcement of Kobe's impending retirement. The focus should be on remembering a legend. But if you want to know how the Lakers got to this point, the timeline we've laid out here is a good start.