Battle for Los Angeles Leaves Lakers at Rock Bottom

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIJanuary 5, 2013

SACRAMENTO, CA - NOVEMBER 21: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers bites his jersey during their game against the Sacramento Kings at Power Balance Pavilion on November 21, 2012 in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After falling to the Los Angeles Clippers for the second time in the 2012-13 NBA season, the Lakers have hit rock bottom. This time around, they lost 107-102 after Chris Paul scored eight points during the final one minute and seven seconds.

The official NBA Twitter feed broke it down perfectly:

Kobe tied his own @lakers record w/ his 16th straight game of 27+ points (38p). But Chris Paul's season-high 30 led to @laclippers W tonite.

— NBA (@NBA) January 5, 2013


As telling as those statistics may have been, there are others worth noting.

Pau Gasol finished the game with two points and four rebounds on 1-of-6 shooting from the floor. Metta World Peace also shot 1-of-6, while Jodie Meeks converted just 3-of-13.

To make matters worse, Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register reports that Dwight Howard has suffered yet another injury:

Dwight Howard's right shoulder injury is a stinger, according to Lakers PR. Shoulder was packed in ice postgame.

— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) January 5, 2013


If there was ever a worst-case scenario, this would be it.

Stan Van Gundy, Howard's coach while with the Orlando Magic, recently speculated that Howard is not quite 100 percent recovered from April 2012 back surgery (via The Los Angeles Times).

Suffering yet another ailment can only lead to further concern about whether or not the Lakers will actually turn things around. 


In Need of a Historical Turnaround

As of their Jan. 4, 2013, loss to the Clippers, the Lakers are now 15-17. This is the latest the franchise has been below .500 since they were 15-16 on Jan. 3, 2006.

The Lakers finished the 2005-06 regular season as the seventh seed in the Western Conference at 45-37.

As unrealistic as we once imagined this to be, it appears as if the Lakers are destined for that type of season. Even that may be optimistic, however, as they could only reach 45-37 by winning 60 percent of their final 50 games.

If they hope to win 50 games, the Lakers would need to win 70 percent of their final 50. 


Placing the Blame: Gasol and D'Antoni

As one could only expect, blame has been placed for the Los Angeles Lakers' unspeakable shortcomings. As for who is shouldering that criticism, it's the usual suspects: Pau Gasol and Mike D'Antoni.

Gasol finished the Battle of Los Angeles with four points on 1-of-6 shooting. He's now averaging 12 points and 7.2 rebounds on 41.2 percent shooting over his past five games.

Even still, Kobe Bryant has come to Gasol's defense:

Kobe comes to Gasol's rescue, says Lakers have to go through him "a lot, lot more." Shook his head about Gasol's lack of touches.

— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) January 5, 2013


Bryant has a point. To an extent.

Gasol has now played 14 games under Coach D'Antoni, and the offensive guru has failed to prove an understanding for what Gasol does best. Still, Gasol cannot perform at this level without shouldering a great deal of the blame himself.

Fortunately for Gasol, Kobe wasn't the only Laker to speak in his favor. Legendary point guard Steve Nash jumped to his defense as well. He cited recent history as the source for his belief:

Nash on Pau: "Six months ago he was unbelievable in the Olympics. That's still in there somewhere." BK

— Kamenetzky Brothers (@KamBrothers) January 5, 2013


If Nash and Bryant both believe, what will it take for D'Antoni to do the same? Most importantly, what will it take for Gasol to return to his All-Star-caliber form? If he's unable to do so, the Lakers will continue to falter. 


Second Best in Los Angeles

If there is one thing the Lakers cannot accept, it is that they are the second-best team in Los Angeles.

The Clippers have finished ahead of the Lakers in the standings in just three seasons since 1993. As of Jan. 5, 2013, however, the Clippers are a full 10 games ahead of the Lakers.

In other words, the Lakers are in fact the second-best team in their own city. In their own arena. Rock bottom has been hit.

Even if the Lakers were to reach the level expected of them, settling for second best in their own city is unacceptable. With a 10-game deficit and 50 games remaining, the likelihood that they close the gap is slim.

They have two league MVPs, two Defensive Player of the Year Award winners and six All-Stars. Even still, they cannot top .500 and are unable to own the label of "best team in their own city."

If that's not rock bottom for the Lakers organization, what would be?