Beliefs and Reality – Why the Los Angeles Lakers are 1-9

November 17, 2014

The Lakers were crushed by the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night, 136-115, and fell to 1-9 on the season. It is the worst 10-game start in franchise history.

The game was far less close than the lopsided final score indicated. At the end of three quarters, Kobe Bryant had scored his 44 points already but the team was losing by 37.

Let’s break down where we are as simply as possible.

Why are the Lakers 1-9? The easy answer, of course, is that it’s because they are a very bad basketball team, almost surely one of the five worst in the NBA. That combined with a very tough schedule to start the season means an abysmal record.

And why are they so bad? Again, the simplest response would be because they lack talent compared to other NBA teams and they are even worse because even that limited talent doesn't play well together as a team.

The current Lakers squad is performing so far below the standards of decent NBA basketball, let alone the glorious Lakers tradition, that some pundits are speculating whether Lakers management, by putting together such an obviously inferior team, intended some version of this catastrophe on purpose.

And the motive behind this alleged sabotage? The Lakers are cleverly trying to keep their top 5 protected 1st round pick in 2015 from going to the Suns. They just can’t admit they are tanking because the fans would get too upset.

I don’t buy it.

If anything has been proven over the past few seasons, it’s that the once-respected Lakers front office has not been that slick about executing anything. Considering the recent litany of missteps and poor decisions undertaken by management, fans have little reason to believe there is a “master plan” behind any of it.

Furthermore, as useful as a top 5 pick would be, it is far from a guarantee of success. It would only be one small piece to a much larger puzzle that would still need to be solved. In any case, all indications suggest the Lakers still believe that landing a big free agent in the future is the real plan.

No, the uglier truth is that Lakers management never realized their team was quite this bad, and also actually tried to improve the roster on numerous instances, but repeatedly failed…and failed…and failed. 

While admittedly there has been some bad luck too – Steve Nash’s injury comes to mind – most of the failure has been a result of poor front office decisions.

While we have documented many of these bumbling decisions in great detail before, what’s also clear is that underlying these mishaps is a pattern of consistent strategic miscalculation by the Lakers front office.

Quickly, here are five pillars of belief within the Lakers organization that have contributed to the downfall of the team over the past few seasons. Sadly, the consequences of these misguided views were foreseeable to many fans of the team.

Lakers Belief #1: Sign players to one-year deals and acquire players whose contracts are set to expire. Aside from the flexibility this will provide you later on, those “contract year” players will play extra hard to prove themselves and the team will benefit as a result.

Reality Check #1: Those “contract year” players play more selfishly and self-consciously, knowing and feeling (even more than usual) that they are a replaceable part for a team who is not invested in them, and as a result the team suffers.

Lakers Belief #2: Since the best teams in the NBA have a conglomeration of stars, investing in an established superstar like Kobe makes it more likely another star will join the Lakers.

Reality Check #2: Other top players in the NBA don’t have a great desire to play with an older, declining star (especially one who appears unwilling to share “leadership” of the team). Heck, even the two top guys who were playing with Kobe (Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol), have taken less money the past two summers in order to leave and play with other teams rather than stay with the Kobe-led Lakers.

Lakers Belief #3: By giving Kobe over $48 million for two years, years he will be playing his 19th and 20th seasons in the NBA, you are showing your fans and even other potential free agents you are loyal to your star players, thereby making your team a more enticing destination.

Reality Check #3: By rewarding Kobe for his past service or even his “business value” to your franchise, you actually send a disturbing message to fans and other free agents that something other than winning right now is your top priority, thereby damaging your brand.

Lakers Belief #4: Kobe’s championship experience and fiery winning attitude will rub off on his mediocre teammates and make them play better than they've ever played before.

Reality Check #4: Kobe’s high volume shooting, lack of trust, and barely disguised frustration regularly makes his teammates shrink and play worse than they used to play for other teams.

Lakers Belief #5: Kobe’s accumulated wisdom over the course of his long career, as well as the limitations placed upon him by his recent injuries, will automatically make the difficult-to-regulate Mamba realize more than ever the importance of being a facilitator for this team. He might not score as much, but he will be more efficient than ever.

Reality Check #5: Kobe doesn't seem to think that way. He is the second-leading scorer in the NBA at the age of 36. However, he is shooting under 38% and his 24.4 shots per game are by far more than anyone else in the entire league – nobody else in the NBA shoots even 20 shots per game.

Kobe’s career FG% is about 45%. In ten games this season, Kobe has yet to shoot as high as 45% in a single game.

So now the Lakers are staring in horror at the looming atrocity that is the rest of the 2014-2015 – an impending failure of epic proportions. Doesn't the Lakers front office have some desperate contingency plan ready to save fans from this titanic debacle?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear so. Because…

Bonus Lakers Belief: If things don’t work out ideally and all else fails, at least we still have Kobe. Fans will be upset with the losing, but enjoy watching their hero put up big numbers during a two-year retirement party.

Bonus Reality Check: Are you having fun yet?

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for

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