(Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
The Los Angeles Lakers lost their 10th game in a row last night against the New Orleans Hornets which ties the record for their longest losing streak in franchise history with the squad that was led by rookie Nick Van Exel in 1994.
This 10 game losing streak tops the 9 gamer that the Lakers earned just last season. Runs of losing have become common place over the last three seasons.
The 7 longest losing streaks in Lakers’ franchise history have occurred in the last 3 seasons.
The Lakers are currently at the 9 win mark more than half way through the season and on pace to finish with the worst record in franchise history which will be the 3rd straight season that they have set the franchise record for futility in a season.
While it seems much longer, it was just 6 years ago that the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in 7 games of an epic NBA Finals series.
Most championship teams with aging stars like the Lakers, with both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol on the wrong side of 30 after their 2nd championship together, a decline followed by a prolonged period at the bottom of the standings while the rebuilding process takes place is expected but that is never the thought process with this franchise where historically they’ve reloaded quickly and avoided a drawn out rebuilding process.
The Lakers nearly repeated history by trading for Chris Paul in 2011 before that trade fell through and again in 2012 when they acquired Dwight Howard in trade but that was short lived with him leaving for the Rockets in free agency after just one season; leaving the Lakers with nothing to show for the acquisition.
Three forgettable seasons after the days of Dwight the Lakers aren’t showing signs that the team is getting better and heading in the right direction; in fact, things are actually getting worse with no indication that an upward swing is near.
This brings us to a promise that the Lakers’ Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and part owner, Jim Buss, made of becoming a championship contender by the end of the 2016-17 season.
“I was laying myself on the line by saying, if this doesn’t work in three to four years, if we’re not back on the top — and the definition of top means contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship — then I will step down because that means I have failed,” Jim Buss told the Los Angeles Times in an interview in 2014.
If you want to take his promise literally you can give him another season to still be within the “three to four years” window but even then, with the team in its current state, void of sufficient elite talent that is losing at a historic clip, it is not happening outside of a Hail Mary that would have to include landing Ben Simmons in this years draft and him becoming all that he is advertised.
A quick turnaround to reach “championship contending” levels would need more than just nabbing Simmons in the draft but landing a few of the upcoming franchise shifting free agents such as a Kevin Durant this off-season and Russell Westbrook and/or Blake Griffin the next year.
That is scenario that would be required to save Buss’ job at the top, a pipe-dream that even the most optimistic Lakers fan would have a difficult time believing can come true.
While many will say it will be a positive for Jim Buss to step down in his role, especially former Lakers’ great Earvin “Magic” Johnson who has long been critical of Buss’ work, and that could be true if a strong leader replaces him, but the narrative that is created by it is damaging to the franchise and it will hover over them like a dark cloud.
When Jim Buss does step down (we’ve established it’s a matter of when not if) it will leave a horrible stain of failure on the franchise that will brand them for years to come and have long standing repercussions in free agency. What big name free agent will not hesitate to sign with a franchise that just had its vice president and part owner of a family business step down because it failed. As it is now, big name free agents are already avoiding the Lakers without this story line that kills any confidence of those at the top of the organization.
Jim isn’t the sole reason the Lakers are in their current state and he never had to put himself in a position to be the martyr but that is exactly what he will be. To be fair, he also was a contributor to the recent success of the franchise and not just its more recent demise yet he put himself in the line of fire.
It was a well-intended but still foolish promise by Jim Buss that will cost him his title and responsibilities with the team that his late, great father Dr. Jerry Buss had hoped he would hold after his time.
The Lakers will recover because they always do. They have a rich history of winning that will eventually outshine Buss’ failed promise and recent futility with the team; but this time around it won’t be a quick reload like of years past and instead a slow and steady rebuild without the inclusion of a foolhardy deadline.