Looking Back: How Did the Lakers Turn It Around To Be Champions Again?
Since the turn of the millennium, the Los Angeles Lakers were the most successful NBA team of the inaugural decade, having won five championships. Then, nearly a decade went by and it looked like the LA Lakers would go more than 10 years without a championship. However, bettors at the top 10 casino sites were soon rewarded for backing the Lakers to come through in an emotionally charged 2019-2020 season. But first, let’s examine the lean years.
Kobe Bryant’s 2013 Contract
According to Ryen Russillo of Fan Duel, the Lakers’ woes in the next decade became apparent in 2013 with the re-signing of the late Kobe Bryant (R.I.P.) on a long contract in November of that season. Having turned 35, this was to mark a spell of two injury-plagued seasons for Bryant. An Achilles
Injury has already proven troublesome to shake off by the time Bryant tore the rotator in his right shoulder during the 2014-15 season.
In 2015-16, Bryan embarked on his 20th and final season with the Lakers. Historically, this was a record for Bryant, who surpassed John Stockton on 19 seasons with the same NBA team. While playing below the peaks of his career, Bryant continued to work hard and was humble in requesting that opponents didn’t honor his achievement on the court. Having broken a 10-game losing streak, Bryant delivered one last time with a spectacular 60-point showing against the Utah Jazz.
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While paying a high salary for the aging and injured Bryant, the Lakers failed to entice younger stars in free agency. Three of the most notable failures were LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh. Russillo also mentions that the Lakers couldn’t entice Kyle Lowry or Pau Gasol. With Bryant retiring in 2016, the Lakers had given up half a decade without rebuilding the team in a meaningful way.
Controlling owner of the Lakers Jeanie Buss wasn’t pleased by the wave of denials and described any player who didn’t want to play with Bryant, “as probably a loser, and I’m glad that they wouldn’t come to the team”. So, instead of attracting the aforementioned free agents, Buss and the Lakers settled for acquiring the likes of Carlos Boozer, Wesley Johnson, Jeremy Lin, and Ed Davis. As NBA Insiders will know, the strategy didn’t work.
What also didn’t work is the leadership structure, with Russillo citing a fundamental flaw in hiring and firing four separate coaches since 2013. Among those to try and fail at the Lakers were Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Byron Scott, and Luke Walton. Plus, there were issues when Magic Johnson joined as team president wasn’t given the authority to fire Walton, with general manager Rob Pelinka blocking the move.
The King James Reign
After previously failing to entice LeBron James, the Lakers finally got their man when the Cleveland native opted to leave the Cavaliers before the 2018-19 season. However, one man does not a team make. Although LeBron arrived in LA, the Lakers failed to surround him with an appropriate cast of talent.
Despite the gulf in talent, LeBron dragged the Lakers into playoff contention. Unfortunately for LeBron, the dream became a nightmare when he incurred a groin injury and missed 17 games. Unsurprisingly, the team failed to qualify without him. Missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005 was a wake-up call for Lebron. For the Lakers, the playoffs had eluded the team since 2013.
Walton was forced to carry the can for the 2018-19 failure and in stepped Frank Vogel, formerly of the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic, respectively, as head coach. The New Jersey native, however, wasn’t the first choice with the Lakers having been spurned by Monty Williams and Ty Lue – the latter wasn’t satisfied with the contract terms that were offered.
Lakers Win 17th Banner
Amid all of the chaos, the Lakers had traded three first-round draft picks along with players Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball to secure the rights of Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans. With the roster shaken up, LeBron shifted to point guard and adapted his style for the 2019-20 season. After improving his defensive efforts and providing leadership to the team, James helped the Lakers to open the season with a 17-2 record.
With COVID-19 bringing a suspension of the 2019-20 schedule, the NBA finally resolved the issue by inviting 22 teams to form the NBA Bubble. This required coaches and players from each of the 22 teams to form bubbles that wouldn’t be broken until the playoffs were resolved. Ultimately, players and coaches could only see each other and not family or friends.
After posting a 52-19 record by the conclusion of the regular season, the Lakers finally entered the Lakers after not participating since 2013. Simultaneously, the Lakers were declared the top seed, a feat which hadn’t been achieved since 2010. All signs were pointing towards a dominant run and the Lakers didn’t disappoint.
The Lakers began with a 4-1 series win over the Portland Trail Blazers, which was followed by further 4-1 series victories against the Houston Rockets and the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers then finished the job by clinching their 17th and record-equaling championship to move the team level with the Boston Celtics. In a 4-2 series win, King James won his fourth Finals MVP accolade to complement his four Championship wins.
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