This team was supposed to be invincible.
There was talk of a 70-win season, another potential three-peat, another MVP award for Kobe Bryant, or at the very least, a return to their 2009 Championship form.
However, through their numerous failures throughout the season, the Lakers quieted that chatter long ago.
The savage stomping they received by the Nuggets in their first matchup of the season, the Christmas day massacre they suffered at the hands of LeBron James and the Cavaliers, and most recently, the abhorrent game they played in Oklahoma City are all definitive signs that these Lakers are nowhere near the behemoths they were expected to be.
As if those games weren’t example enough, they had already exceeded last year’s loss total weeks ago.
To be fair, the Lakers have been faced with injury problems they didn’t have last season. Last year, Kobe Bryant played all 82 games and the Lakers were never without both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum; this year offered no such fortune.
Do the injuries alone account for the gap between where the Lakers are and where most (myself included) predicted they’d be? Or are the Lakers just not that good?
Utah, Orlando and Cleveland all average a higher differential between points scored and points allowed. Cleveland, Boston, and Dallas all sport better road records. What’s worse, Cleveland, Orlando, and Denver have been widely noted for playing with more urgency.
Could it be mainly due to the visible wear and tear on Kobe’s body catching up with up him? After all, his health has been questionable since early December, maybe even earlier. Do the afflictions of the shepherd justify the scattering of the sheep?
Or maybe the expectations hovering around this team were far too great to begin with.
The Lakers still start Derek Fisher at point guard, still have one of the weakest benches behind arguably the league’s best sixth man in Lamar Odom, and within the next two months, both of their top two players will be on the wrong side of 30.
Those aren’t the hallmarks of invincibility.
The good news is that despite their seemingly season long championship hangover, the Lakers haven’t suffered a Miami Heat-like drop off, nor have they threatened to fall off the face of the globe the way the 2009 Celtics did.
The Lakers’ chance at a historic, or even an impressive regular season are long gone, but the Laker faithful may take consolation in this fact: the 2001 Lakers won 11 fewer games than they had in their previous Championship season before dropping only one game, not series, in the playoffs.
Whether these Lakers can rebound and repeat the history of their past remains to be seen.