The Los Angeles Lakers are officially out of the hunt for a playoff spot.
There probably aren't any fans out there who didn't already know this team was done months ago. The San Antonio Spurs simply made it official with a 119-85 drubbing:
The Los Angeles Lakers are the first team to be officially eliminated from the playoffs.— Matt Moore CBS (@MattMooreCBS) March 15, 2014
The high-profile Lakers have had their struggles well documented this season. At this point, they may be ready for it to just be over.
That certainly looks to be the case for head coach Mike D'Antoni:
D’Antoni says this is definitely the hardest season he’s been a part of.— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) March 15, 2014
He's led the team to a 22-44 record this season and has struggled with the sometimes-demanding Lakers fanbase. Earlier this season, he told them to find another team to root for:
“If fans are discouraged, find another team to root for.” -Mike D’Antoni (on @TWCSportsNet)— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) December 24, 2013
Well, now they just might (at least until the 2014 draft gives them something to look forward to).
The 2014 postseason will be the first one devoid of the Lakers since 2005, when Kobe Bryant and company were led to a 34-48 record under Rudy Tomjanovich and Frank Hamblen.
This latest bit of bad news comes on the heels of Lakers legend Phil Jackson officially signing on to become the president of basketball operations for the New York Knicks:
Knicks to hold press conference on Tuesday to announce Phil Jackson as their next president at Chase Square at Madison Square Garden.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) March 14, 2014
The losses both on the court and off have been compounded by terrible injury woes, as Bryant, Steve Nash, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and others have all missed significant time.
Health will be a concern next season too, as both Bryant and Nash will be under contract and on the hook for over $30 million.
With that money tied up, there's no easy answer for what the Lakers should do next, but you can be sure the blueprint starts with the 2014 draft.
They've traded a lot of assets in the last couple of years, but wisely hung on to this upcoming pick. If they land someone like Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, their road back to contention could be a fun one to travel.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.