The Los Angeles Lakers have officially reached the lowest point in their regular season since 2008, when the acquisition of Pau Gasol helped fuel consecutive NBA Finals appearances and a championship in 2009.
Predictions of their demise have run rampant across the airwaves, as their recent three-game losing streak has induced anyone with a voice to proclaim their quest for a repeat all but dead.
A three-game losing streak for any other team would be a rough patch, but for the Lakers who have not lost three consecutive games in almost two years, it is a sign of impending doom.
Life as the defending NBA champions is a hard one and besides being every opponent's biggest game, every loss is scrutinized, dissected, and presented as evidence to an eventual downfall.
Additionally, this is the Los Angeles Lakers, a team despised for their excellence and held to a higher standard than any other franchise in professional basketball.
Expectations in Los Angeles are high every year, and the success of the team throughout the years has created an air of arrogance which surrounds the fans and the franchise.
Anyone who follows the Lakers fully expects them to be successful and this smug confidence has fostered an environment in which anyone not associated with the team rejoices whenever Los Angeles stumbles.
This is a phenomenon that transcends basketball and can be seen with other professional teams such as the New York Yankees in baseball, and the Dallas Cowboys in football.
They are simply the teams that people love to hate and some observers generate as much excitement seeing these teams lose as they do when their own teams win.
For those people it is much easier to decry the recent issues of the Lakers as the beginning of the end, rather than putting their recent three-game losing streak into perspective.
Most of the Lakers' struggles stem from an indifferent attitude and the cure for indifference is motivation, which is something Los Angeles has yet to find in the regular season.
Several Lakers including Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant have said as much, and although they recognize it as a concern, they don't seem to be especially disturbed by it.
One possible reason is the Lakers' recent slide has affected them little as far as the standings go, and even though they have lost some ground to the Dallas Mavericks, they can easily make it up by winning games.
Los Angeles still has the second best record in the NBA, and for the first time this year, the roster is finally beginning to get healthy just in time for the postseason.
Knowing that the majority of your issues are more mental than physical makes it easier to resolve those concerns without having to worry about chemistry problems caused by injuries.
And those mental issues are not season-ending flaws, but ones that can be corrected with a little tinkering, focus, passion, and desire; which are all of the elements of a champion.
Make no mistake, the Lakers are the defending champions.
Their team was designed to compete for NBA titles on a yearly basis, which lessens the importance of the regular season.
The most important thing is the postseason and the Lakers have the experience of winning a championship, so if they decide to take the long view rather than placing emphasis on the regular season, it's understandable.
Of course anyone would love to start the postseason as the No. 1 seed with homecourt advantage throughout, but if any team is capable of winning a playoff series on the road, it's the Lakers.
Their road record is not as good as last season's but they still have the pieces to dominate on the road, and during the course of a seven-game series, those advantages are highlighted.
The regular season is only a glimpse into the potential of a team, but the playoffs provide an extended look, and due to the importance of each possession, the game slows down.
A premium is placed on experience and the ability to deal with pressure under the most adverse circumstances, both of which the Lakers are very familiar with and will embrace in the postseason.
It's easy to glance at the recent failings of the Lakers and find fallacy in my logic, but they have faced adversity before, and based on the results of those challenges, I will reserve my judgement until the playoffs start.