There are a couple of ways one could process this information. Either such consistent fortunes instills within you, the average Lakers fan, a sense that good days are always around the bend even in the toughest times—or…what Magic Johnson said, as quoted by Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
To recap: Magic Johnson—one of the top five players to ever spin a Spalding, winner of five NBA championships and three MVP awards, participant in 12 All-Star Games, basketball ambassador beloved the world over—had a “messed up” year because the Lakers were kind of crappy.
It’s possible Johnson spends hours a day fielding pointed questions from angry fans, imbued with accusatory undertones somehow placing blame on Magic himself, about why L.A. hasn’t remained in its rightful place atop the Western Conference.
But we kind of doubt it.
That said, all is far from well in Lakerland: A 35-year-old, injury-rattled Kobe Bryant is taking up more than a third of the team's cap space; L.A.’s biggest offseason move involved essentially being paid to take Jeremy Lin off the Houston Rockets’ hands; they replaced Pau Gasol with Carlos Boozer; and Julius Randle—a 19-year-old rookie forward—might actually lead them in scoring.
So no, the Lakers aren’t bringing home their 17th banner anytime soon.
Over at SB Nation, Tom Ziller penned a particularly pessimistic view of L.A.’s near-future prospects:
As I wrote earlier in July, the Lakers never stay down for long. But even one more year of mediocrity and one more horrible offseason could be too long to save the end of Kobe's Lakers career. This is quite a race to watch: the stopwatch on the revival of the Lakers vs. the hourglass of Kobe's career as a star. And the bigger concern for all involved, including fans, is that the two issues are intertwined, that at his incredible price tag in the new, more heavily capped NBA, Kobe is actually a reason the Lakers are so unable to bounce back quickly.
Which doesn’t sound all that bad, as long as you stop after the first sentence.
With the Western Conference as loaded as it’s ever been, the Lakers’ chances of sneaking into the playoff picture are toothpick-thin. Even if they somehow manage to crash the party, the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder will make quick work of them.
Can Bryant manage his minutes effectively enough to buy him one more run a few years down the road? Is newly hired head coach Byron Scott a legitimate long-term solution? Can Steve Nash stay on the court long enough to give L.A. some semblance of consistency at point guard?
There are thousands more where these came from. None, however, are more pertinent than this one:
Should any of these really ruin Magic Johnson’s year?
Given what Johnson’s been through personally and professionally, it’s worth taking this tweet with a cargo ship of salt.
At the same time, such a sentiment—social media-derived though it may be—underscores an important lesson of NBA power dynamics: When you’re so used to winning, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the 16 banners.