Everything was solved for the Los Angeles Lakers. After their claims of "the season starts now," they actually cobbled a three-game win streak together. The Oklahoma City Thunder fell, and Los Angeles kept the momentum going against the mighty Pelicans of New Orleans.
Then, disaster. After leading late in the game, the Lakers fell apart on Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns. Dwight Howard re-aggravated his labrum injury and had to sit as the Lakers floundered.
The bad news is that this is just the first game of a seven-game road trip. The Grammys have forced the Lakers far from Staples at a particularly precarious time in the season.
Los Angeles has been a miserable 5-16 on the road this year. If you buy that this is a trend and not a fluke, games against Boston, Miami and Brooklyn do not bode well.
The question then is, "Does a season-threatening slump prompt some kind of reaction?" The Lakers have already shown themselves quick to panic, firing Mike Brown five games into the season.
Normally, I would say, "No way, Los Angeles would never overreact to such a small sample size." Firing a coach so soon into the season betrays a lack of stability, though. It puts nearly any eventuality on the table.
The other question is whether or not this is a season worth salvaging. Most logical observers would conclude that this Lakers season is a lost cause, even if they do happen to make the playoffs.
If you subscribe to that notion, then perhaps you endorse making a big, splashy move near the deadline. If you believe that a veteran like Kevin Garnett (should he agree to a trade, given his no-trade clause) can vault this team into contention, then you might support a get-rich-quick scheme.
I don't happen to subscribe to this thinking. The Lakers roster is flawed, even if they do manage to make the playoffs. They feature two centers in a league that's increasingly swinging towards floor spacing and shooting.
Whatever the Lakers do, the focus should be on getting better in the long term. If that means building around Dwight Howard, so be it. The immediate future should not have much bearing on whether or not they choose to embark upon that route.
Right now, the Lakers' balance sheets clear out in 2014, when they owe less than $10 million in total salary. Whatever Los Angeles does, expect them to do it with 2014 in mind.
(3) Lakers aren't taking on any salary past 2014 b/c Jimmy Buss wants to make a run at LeBron. So Rudy Gay (expires 2015) ain't happening.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) January 26, 2013
That's the season when the Heat triad is up for free agency, which of course means that it's the season when LeBron James is up for free agency. The Lakers will make moves according to that dream scenario.
I can't fault them, either. This is a franchise that makes big splashes, and they'd be right to think themselves contenders in the James sweepstakes.
Such a restriction limits options, though. Veterans near the end of their deals might be available (think the aforementioned Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce), but little else in exchange for somebody like Pau Gasol.
The smart money is on Los Angeles holding firm, even if disaster strikes on this road trip. You never know, though. This franchise is full of surprises.