For the Los Angeles Lakers franchise, success is measured by championships. Should the Lakers lose Game 7 on Saturday night versus the Denver Nuggets, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak will have no choice but to blow this team up.
The "blow up" never happened, and Lakers management gave this core one more shot at a championship run.
But a first-round exit at the hands of the superstar-less Denver Nuggets just might be the nail in the coffin for this Lakers team.
Lakers management is pressed to make big changes to the Lakers payroll, with more punitive luxury tax penalties looming under the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement set to start in 2013.
And Kupchak's trigger finger is always ready, as evidenced by the blockbuster Pau Gasol-Lamar Odom trade for Chris Paul to start the season.
Should the Lakers come out flat Saturday night and lose the do-or-die Game 7, consider Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and anyone else not named Kobe Bryant gone.
Lakers management will not tolerate uninspired performances from their pricey payroll, especially when Gasol and Bynum have 19 million and 15 million reasons, respectively, to play with passion and play to win.
And the wrath of the Buss family will carry on down the line, all the way down to Mr. Christian Eyenga and his final roster spot.
The Lakers aren't just fighting for a place in the second round come Saturday night—they're fighting for their jobs.
We knew a roster overhaul was likely inevitable given the league's new labor framework, but who among us knew it might come so soon?
A tough first-round test versus the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2010 playoffs propelled the Lakers to an epic back-to-back championship run. Depending on the team's response in Saturday's game, we could be staring at a similar starting point for Kobe and Co. after going the distance with the Denver Nuggets in Round 1.
Or, it could spell the end of an era.
The beauty of a Game 7 is that its fate lies in the players' hands. Throw everything out the window up to this point, as it all comes down to one game.
But with Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family watching from the Staples Center rafters Saturday night, this veteran Lakers team has a lot more to play for than do the Nuggets.
The stakes have never been higher.
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