The Los Angeles Lakers' place in the standings isn't the only thing to take a massive hit in Kobe Bryant's absence. The franchise's rankings in TV ratings have suffered as well—to the tune of a nearly 50 percent decrease over last year's position, according to Variety's Rick Kissell.
According to Kissell, "the 57 telecasts of Lakers games on Time Warner Cable SportsNet have averaged 199,000 viewers — down a whopping 49% from last year at this time (390,000)."
That's a shame for the fans who missed a record-setting 51-point third quarter on Tuesday night.
But on more nights than not, the absentee fanbase has been understandable. The Lakers' lackluster defense ranks 29th in the league, and with Bryant and Steve Nash playing in just 17 games (combined), there's been precious little star power to attract fans to their television sets.
If there's good news for the Lakers, it's that things can't get much worse.
In addition to Bryant's return next season, the organization will be flush with cap space. Whether it spends it all this summer remains an open question, but it's hard to imagine the team coming up entirely empty—and even harder to imagine its 2014-14 campaign will be this bad.
Kissell notes that, "Four of their last seven losses have come by 20 points or more and the three most recent Lakers games have averaged a meager 72,000 viewers." That pales in comparison to last season's viewership.
The Lakers have long been known as one of the nation's premium media markets, but the demand for their services is apparently more elastic than it might seem. Not even fans of the Purple and Gold have patience for this particular product.
It's unclear exactly how many of the faithful have turned their attention to the Los Angeles Clippers, but Kissell reports that the their viewership is also down from a year ago. It seems that when the Lakers aren't clicking, Los Angeles' interest in basketball takes a general downturn.
In January, the Los Angeles Times' Ben Bolch noted that the Lakers' ratings were down 37.5 percent through their first 40 games. The fact that the decline has only steepened suggests that fans became even less interested as playoff hopes faded into oblivion.