NBA

NBA AM: The Lakers Hit Rock Bottom

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Lakers Sinking To New Lows

To say things haven’t gone well this season for the Los Angeles Lakers would be the classic example of an understatement. While All-Star guard Kobe Bryant has a future batch of revenge on his mind, the unmistakable  truth right now is the once proud Lakers (21-41) are sinking and undoubtedly on pace to post their worst record since the 1960 campaign, when the club was still based in Minneapolis.

On Thursday night, the franchise suffered the most embarrassing defeat in team history, a completely one-sided 48-point drubbing at hands of cross-town “rival” Los Angeles Clippers. Some drum up the argument on whether the Clippers now have the keys to the city. They don’t. Ultimately, Los Angeles is still a Lakers town with 16 NBA championship banners on the mantle. But here is the truth, the Clippers (43-20) are headed into the playoffs as a legitimate title contender while the Lakers are barreling head first into the draft lottery.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers spoke of his team securing bragging rights as the next step toward truly changing the guard in Los Angeles.

“Whenever you’re in the same town, you see each other all the time, and in the summer you play against each other,” Rivers told the Los Angeles Times after the resounding victory. “Clearly, you like the bragging rights.”

The Lakers’ current eight-season playoff streak, which includes three Finals appearances and two titles, will in all likelihood come to an end. But the next question is whether this season’s struggle is a blip on the radar or more of an indication of what’s to come over the next few years.

Bryant, armed with a fresh two-year $48.5 million deal, fully believes the 2013-14 campaign is a temporary setback. The future Hall of Fame guard has played in just six games this season and there’s no doubt if he’s fully healthy the Lakers are much more formidable. The question is how much will the soon to be 36 year old legs of Bryant have left after his recent battles with leg injuries?

On paper, the Lakers have a good shot to turn things around rather quickly. Assuming Bryant’s return to form, a high lottery pick awaiting the franchise in June and significant cap space this summer the troubles in Los Angeles may be short-lived.

The Lakers currently have $34.1 million in guaranteed salaries for the 2014-15 campaign, so the team have the chance to be very active on the free agency front.

However, $32.7 million of their cap figure for next season is tied to two aging veterans who have played a combined 16 games this season. Bryant is on the books for $23 million, while former league MVP Steve Nash will account for another $9.7 million. While Bryant and Nash have been warriors throughout their tenures in the league, both guys’ respective futures are in question as years of accumulated mileage are starting to surface.

“They smelled blood in the water and they killed us,” Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni said after the Clippers’ shellacking.

After years of running roughshod around the league, the sharks are circling around the Lakers and everyone is lining up to take their respective shot at the former frontrunners. For now, the team has no choice but to endure their newfound place among the league’s cellar dwellers and hope Bryant’s dreams of revenge come true.

Lionel Hollins And New York Knicks, Perfect Match?

After winning 54 games in 2013, the New York Knicks are on pace to record 50 losses this season.

The 2013-14 campaign has been one of role reversals for New York and the franchise has plenty of decisions to make this summer. One of the primary decisions Knicks ownership will have to make will be the future of head coach Mike Woodson with the organization.

For now, the club has continued to publicly back Woodson despite the team’s increased struggles. However there will be a strong pool of talented sideline generals awaiting a call if the Knicks decide to cut ties.

One guy is former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins. Two-time All-Star forward Zach Randolph played under Hollins in Memphis but also logged time as a member of the Knicks. Randolph believes Hollins would immediately command respect in New York and help turn things around.

“Guys will respect [Hollins],” Randolph told Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News. “And he will prepare the team as well as anybody. He holds people accountable. He’ll get on you to play defense. He got on me. But he made us better.”

Another order of business for New York to tackle is the looming free agency of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks can offer north of $120 million to keep Anthony in the fold this summer, but there’s also a legitimate chance they could lose the prolific scorer to a situation which offers a better shot at a championship.

Randolph says he can’t see Anthony walking in free agency but noted there could be better situations around the league for his peer if he’s looking to win a title.

“I can’t see him leaving, not with all the extra money he’ll get from the Knicks,” Randolph said. “But it’s more than just the money. It’s New York.… I don’t think he’ll leave here. Now if he wants to win, then that’s another question. For him to win in New York, they’ve got to surround him with some other players.”

The Knicks are currently 5.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 20 games left to play.

About Lang Greene

Lang Greene

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last seven seasons