The Los Angeles Lakers lost to their Staples Center co-tenants on Wednesday night. It was their second loss in a row to the Clippers, and their 62nd loss of the season. That second number means that this group of Lakers will officially finish the season with the worst record in the franchise's history. It's a fitting end to a miserable campaign.
I normally don't like to talk about myself in these posts, but here goes. The three years I've covered the Lakers in any capacity have been the worst three seasons in the team's history (Maybe I'm the problem). My first post was the day Dwight Howard left, and things have only gotten worse from there.
The bottom fell out on Mike D'Antoni's mismatched group of veterans the next year, and he was fired soon after that team posted the worst record in franchise history. Byron Scott was hired to make the Lakers great again. A poor roster and poorer coaching have made that impossible, and his team also set a new low.
The point is, there has been a lot of bad basketball over the last few years. This group of Lakers still earned their distinction as the worst of those teams.
Little-to-no ball movement? Check. Lack of a coherent defensive plan or execution? Yup. Nearly every coaching press conference turning into a storm of quoted tweets mocking the head coach? That happened, along with nearly every other ingredient necessary to create the burnt frozen pizza that was this year's Lakers.
Like a frozen pizza, the 2015-16 Lakers were never expected to be good. They were expected to be competent, to get the job done until better options could be found. Instead, they just left everyone associated disappointed and with an understanding that the team needs an almost entirely new dish with a different chef.
Byron Scott wasn't at fault for everything wrong with the Lakers, but his strange rotations and seeming lack of a plan beyond telling his players to do some variation of putting in more effort or manning up certainly didn't help the team. Scott himself summed things up after the loss to the Clippers better than I ever could:
Byron on Lakers' young players: "They're getting a hard lesson this year on learning what not to do."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 7, 2016
The Lakers and their fans hope those lessons pay off down the road, but the team's young players likely aren't going to be thanking Scott if and when it happens.
Also contributing to the cautious optimism surrounding the Lakers during the offseason were their veteran additions. Roy Hibbert was supposed to be the rim protector to clean up Kobe and the kid's defensive mistakes. Brandon Bass was brought in to provide a steady presence in the frontcourt off of the bench. Lou Williams was signed to a multi-year deal to give the Lakers an efficient bench scorer.
Bass exceeded all expectations working primarily as a backup center, but Hibbert and Williams were disappointments for differing reasons. Very few, if any, centers could plug up all the leaks the Lakers perimeter defense sprung. Hibbert wasn't up to the unfair task, and his offensive fit proved poor enough that he was an active minus on both ends of the floor and saw his playing time dwindle as the season wound down.
Williams was effective individually, but he was one of the many reasons the Lakers offense so frequently became bogged down in isolations. He still has value going forward to be sure, but rather than complimenting the Lakers' backcourt of the future in Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell, Lou was too often used in their stead. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year was even inserted as a starter for a stretch, sending the Lakers' second overall pick in the prior draft to the bench and frequently playing over him down the stretch of games.
Williams, Scott, and Hibbert were popular targets for fans on social media this season, but the Lakers' young players weren't blameless for the team's futility. Clarkson continued to develop as an offensive player, but was one of the worst defenders in the league for much of the year.
Russell was better on defense, but too often dies on screens or loses track of his man when they don't have the ball. Randle wasn't much better. Offensively, the two Lakers lottery picks showed flashes of potential at times, like when Randle gets up to full steam in the open court or when one of Russell's preternatural passes found its target. But sometimes those same passes would end up in the stands, or Randle would launch another off-target mid-range jumper.
The young Lakers still have a ton of room to grow, and are young enough that it's fair to say this year may be the low point of their careers if their expected upward trajectory comes to pass.
Perhaps the biggest reason for all of the hope and hoopla surround the worst Lakers team of all-time was the farewell tour of Kobe Bryant. Once Bryant announced that this season would be his last, the Lakers road through the NBA turned into an elaborate and showy funeral procession for Bryant's career.
The atrociousness of the Lakers' play turned that funeral into one of the Viking variety, with everything metaphorically on fire as Kobe shot his way to one of the least efficient seasons ever to the sound of thunderous applause. The Lakers surely don't regret the Bryant extension while they are making money hand over fist on his farewell tour, and fans wouldn't have wanted to see him retire in any other uniform.
All that being said, having one of the least effective players in the entire league taking up around a third of your cap space is a good way to lose a lot of games. With the Lakers only ensured to keep their pick for the 2016 draft if it is in the top-three, this season may end up being just what the team needed in order to add to its talent base.
With a year of the youth's development stunted in an outdated system and amid baffling rotations, the team keeping their pick is certainly the only way the worst Lakers team of all-time could be considered a success.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.