The Los Angeles Lakers suffered another loss over 30 points on Friday and while there are still 16 games remaining, their season has for all intents and purposes come to an end as they are now officially eliminated from playoff contention. It marks the second time the Lakers have missed the playoffs since the 2004-2005 season, which was Kobe Bryant’s first season without Shaquille O’Neal.
With a 22-44 record, the Lakers find themselves last in the Western Conference and 16.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies, who are in eighth place in the conference. After losing Dwight Howard in free agency, the Lakers figured to face an uphill battle this season, which has been magnified by injuries to several players, namely Bryant and Steve Nash. The Lakers managed to hover around .500 prior to Bryant’s return in December, but any chances at turning that into sustained momentum were quickly lost a week later when Bryant suffered a fracture in his left knee.
Largely due to injuries, Mike D’Antoni’s attempts at finding a rotation capable of competing night in and night out have been futile and unsuccessful. D’Antoni’s frayed relationship with Pau Gasol has also reared its head at multiple points throughout the season, which has led to further speculation that Gasol will not re-sign with the Lakers in the off-season.
While the Lakers have continued to pile up the losses, they have steadily been improving their chances at landing the top pick in the forthcoming NBA Draft. They currently hold the fourth-west record in the league and conceivably could fall to third or second-worst by season’s end. Any hope of combining a top pick with Phil Jackson’s return were lost on Friday with reports that Jackson has officially signed an agreement to join the New York Knicks front office.
During Bryant’s press conference with the media following the announcement that he wouldn’t return this season, the 18-year veteran expressed his desire for the team to re-tool immediately, saying he doesn’t have any patience to continue on the losing path.
Missing the playoffs is another disappointment for the Lakers organization that finds itself heading down a road of uncertainty.
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