To those faithful to the Los Angeles Lakers: This is what rock bottom feels like.
Enjoy it. This builds character, and nobody from here on out can cry "bandwagon."
Besides, it only gets better from here. The team will hit next year's draft with a top-five pick, and in each of the next two offseasons high-profile names will join on in free agency because, at the end of the day, Los Angeles is still Los Angeles.
Just tough it out through the second half of this season, when the biggest news items will be far-fetched "what ifs," another Kobe Bryant rehab and incessant chatter about Jeremy Lin's future.
It's a character-building exercise, folks. Puff that chest out and charge straight ahead into the abyss.
Jeremy Lin's Take
The Jeremy Lin experiment in Los Angeles never really got off the ground.
There was a small hope that Lin would seize the moment with Steve Nash out of the picture. He's shown flashes in the past that suggested he would be a good facilitator in the Lakers lineup but instead averages 10.2/4.6/2.4 on 25.5 minutes per game.
Thanks to an expiring contract worth $8.4 million per Spotrac and the borderline guarantee that he will not be back with the team next year, Lin's name is one of those whispered loudest in the rumor mill.
For his part, Lin does not focus on the rumors, as he told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (via the Press-Telegram):
“I’ve been in cut rumors and trade rumors for a long time. So I’m not worried about it.” Lin said. “It’s just my [Christian] faith. God uses everything for good. That gives me the comfort I need.”
Lin also goes on to explain that his fit with the Lakers is still a work in progress as he adjusts to a new system:
“There are times I will think too much and I lose a little bit of the aggressiveness. But I don’t think it’s a consistent thing. This is a new system and the least amount of space I’ve played with on the floor. So I’m trying to adjust.”
It is interesting to hear Lin speak about his struggles. His attitude and further productivity will say a lot about his future on the open market next offseason.
Lin clearly isn't a great fit in Byron Scott's system, which is fine. The good news for both parties is that the end of their time together is near—and both have plenty of options once a mutual split occurs.
The Goran Dragic Situation
By this point, everybody knows that the Phoenix Suns want to move a point guard to help right a bit of a roster imbalance.
Goran Dragic seems the obvious name to move, as he'll net the Suns the most on the trade block and has an expiring contract anyway.
That last bit is the one problem for the Los Angeles Lakers: A deadline move for Dragic might not make a whole lot of sense.
Alas, Marc Stein of ESPN.com notes that if not at the deadline, the Lakers intend to make a strong push at Dragic this offseason:
The Los Angeles Lakers, who have also coveted Dragic for some time, are likewise presumed to be intent on testing the Suns’ resolve when it comes to their Slovenian point guard, since sources say L.A. plans to chase Dragic with an expected max four-year contract offer this summer.
The summer is obviously a much better time for the Lakers to make their play at their coveted point guard.
For one, the team may need to part with their prized top-five selection in next year's draft to make a deal happen for a point guard who shoots 50 percent from the field and averages a 16.2/4.1/3.6 slash line.
Also, his arrival may actually lift the Lakers out of the top five in the draft. This is not accusing the Lakers of a tank job, but it might be counterproductive for Dragic to come in and make a difference right away.
Ryan Ward of Lakers Nation sums it up best in 140 characters or less:
The real winner in all of this is Phoenix, as at the very least the Lakers' perceived heavy interest means other teams may be willing to pay a higher price than normal to get Dragic.
Kobe Bryant's Comeback
The health of Bryant continues to be the biggest question mark for the Lakers.
Bryant appeared in just 35 games this year, up from his six the season before. Debate will continue to roll in concerning Scott's usage of his 36-year-old legend, but the situation now is what it is: Bryant is on the shelf and continues to face retirement questions.
Bryant stated in an interview with NBA TV (h/t ESPN.com) that he hopes a "rebirth" is in the cards:
I can't say it is the end. I thought the Spurs were done 20 years ago. Those guys are still winning. So, to answer the question, I can't say this is the end of my era because I thought their (era) was done and they're still there. So I'm hoping I can have the same rebirth.
Were this a quote from anyone else, it would be easy to wave off as nothing. This is Bryant, though, he of machine-like work ethic and productivity.
Bryant has plenty of reasons to be optimistic for a turnaround, much of it mentioned in the intro. Julius Randle is on board, and joining him will be another top-five pick. Each of the next two offseasons figure to see major names come to town.
As long as Bryant is a realist, he may be able to take part in something special. Even if that means taking a back seat with reduced minutes, there is a place for Bryant in the rebuild.
"Rebirth" is probably the wrong word, but the positivity is important if Bryant is to help the organization lure top talent to town.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.