LOS ANGELES -- For the first time in a long time, the Los Angeles Lakers are in a bit of a rut. For a franchise that has won 16 championships, a first-round playoff exit via sweep -- punctuating a three-year stretch in which the team failed to make it out of the second round -- is the equivalent of a band known for its epic encores ending a set after playing only a few songs. How did the Lakers get here? Some occurrences were out of their control, of course. The litany of injuries that depleted the roster this past season couldn't be anticipated. And the new collective bargaining agreement that went into effect before the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season has severely affected the way the Lakers go about their business.
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