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Los Angeles Lakers: Destined for the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery

In Sports on January 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm

NBA Draft Lottery

When the Los Angeles Lakers pulled off trades for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash during the off-season, they looked like a team that was built to make another run at an NBA title, at least on paper.  Unfortunately for the Lakers, the games are not played on paper; they are played on a court, where an all-star team of paper tigers has been proven to be too old and slow to compete at the highest level.  If this team had been assembled five years ago, the Lakers may very well have been favored to win it all, but time is not kind to professional athletes.  With more than half of the season completed, the only thing that the Lakers have to look forward to at this point is seeing how many ping pong balls they will have when the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery takes place on Tuesday, May 21st.

The trades that looked so brilliant in the off-season have backfired on the Lakers.  Both Howard and Nash have suffered through an injury-plagued season, and the team has yet to jell even when everyone is healthy.

When the Lakers got off to a 1-4 start, head coach, Mike Brown, took the fall and was fired.  Rumors abound that the “Zen Master,” Phil Jackson, would be brought back to fix what ailed the Lakers, but his return never came to fruition.  The basketball world was shocked when the Lakers chose to go with Mike D’Antoni instead of Jackson, but no one thought that the team would continue to falter so badly that they would miss the playoffs.

A three-game home winning streak this month gave Laker fans a glimmer of false hope that they could climb out of the early-season abyss that they created for themselves.  However, reality set in last night when the Lakers blew a 13-point, fourth quarter lead in Phoenix as the Suns extended the Lakers road losing streak to 7 games in Nash’s return to the city that he called home for most of his career.  This was the first time in franchise history that the Lakers have ended a calendar month with a road record of 0-7 or worse.  Their road record this season is now an appalling 5-16, and their overall record is 20-26.

The Western Conference does not reward mediocre teams with playoff berths the way that the Eastern Conference does, so the Lakers are facing an uphill battle.  Over the past decade, the eighth seed in the Western Conference has been at least four games over .500 every year except one, and even that team was two games over .500.

If recent history is any indication, the Lakers will have to finish the season with a record of 22-14 to even have a chance to sneak into the playoffs, and they still have 20 road games left on the schedule.  To make matters worse, Howard re-injured his shoulder again last night in the loss to the Suns, so his availability is in question.

Even if the Lakers are able to get on a roll and make it into the playoffs, their first round matchup is almost guaranteed to be against either the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder or the Los Angeles Clippers who are in the unfamiliar position of being LA’s glamour team.  All three teams are dominant at home.  And while a matchup against the Clippers wouldn’t require any travel, the Lakers simply cannot keep up with the younger and faster hometown rivals in a seven-game series.

There will be a lot of discussion in the coming weeks about whether the Lakers should deal Howard by the February 21st trading deadline, but it won’t matter either way.  The only question left to answer for the Lakers for the remainder of the season is…

How many ping pong balls will have their logo on it when the NBA Draft Lottery takes place in May?

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