I recall having a conversation once with a Lakers fan who had ranked all the fanbases in the NBA. He had the Lakers first, and his reasoning was that the Lakers fans stick with their team through thick and thin.
I don’t want to go into the whole thing, but it was just so...Lakers fan. Their idea of suffering isn’t very realistic.
The Lakers have been incredibly successful over the course of their time in Los Angeles, playing in the NBA Finals, on average, nearly once every two years.
So when Lakers fans say “thin,” it sounds like the millionaire who has to take the super-premium-elite trim package on his new yacht instead of the super-duper-premium-elite trim package.
The Los Angeles Lakers are about to hit the roughest patch of their history. They may go the next five years without seeing the postseason.
Kobe Bryant is 35 and coming off a torn Achilles tendon, one of the toughest injuries to come back from. He’s not just going to play at an elite level in perpetuity. Pau Gasol, their second-best player, is in the final year of his untradeable contract.
Both will be free agents next year, and while Bryant will remain a Laker, he’ll take a too-large chunk of the cap space the Lakers want to spend, because his ego demands it.
The Lakers don’t have young players to attract veterans, unlike other teams like the Clippers (Blake Griffin was incentive for Chris Paul to stay) or the Rockets (James Harden was joined by Dwight Howard).
Players in their primes aren’t looking to join players past their primes for the next four years; they’re looking to connect with players who have their best years ahead of them.
Free agency isn’t going to be the boon Lakers fans expect it to be. They aren’t going to get much in the draft, either.
This year will be the best they have of the next three or four years. Bryant will be in decline, but he’ll still be Bryant, and that alone is enough to keep them from being horrible. But the rest of the talent is average or worse.
They’ll be good enough to either just miss or just make the playoffs. Either way, it won’t make their draft pick a valuable enough one.
The following season, they don’t get one. Phoenix has it. It’s protected to a degree (top-five in 2015, top-three in 2016 and 2017) but if they need to exercise that, it means they’ve fallen pretty far off.
The Lakers will be average at best this year, and down the road it’s hard to see when and how they are going to get the players who are going to bring them back to the pinnacle of the NBA, where they have always been.
Welcome to where the other half lives, Lakers fans. Pull up a chair. You’re going to be here for a while.