LOS ANGELES LAKERS (17-24)
First Half Recap: Oh the humanity.
What looked this summer like one of the greatest re-loadings in NBA history — a Lakers franchise with few trade assets and little future parlayed draft picks and Andrew Bynum into Steve Nash and Dwight Howard — has turned into quite possibly the greatest collective failure in NBA history.
Little has gone right for the Lakers, from the stuff they can control to the stuff they can’t, and virtually every assumption we had about how this would all play out has been run through the shredder. There has been zero continuity, thanks to coaching changes, injuries, and attempts reconstruct Humpty Dumpty on the fly. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant might ultimately make the Carmelo Anthony/Amar’e Stoudemire pairing look cohesive by comparison.
Pau Gasol, fighting a natural decline in his athleticism, has been yanked around like a marionette under Mike D’Antoni, who looking like he just ate bad shellfish.
Steve Nash can’t quite do what he wants offensively, and because Howard isn’t fully recovered — nor fully interested, at times — his defensive shortcomings have been obvious. Overall, the team is so awful defensively, reflecting a total lack of faith in each other or the system D’Antoni wants them to run.
At every turn this season, when challenged to make a stand, the Lakers have failed miserably.
Second-Half Projection: I’m done expecting the ship to right itself until proven otherwise. Assuming it doesn’t, where the Lakers go from here is anyone’s guess. They have virtually no assets beyond Gasol and Howard, particularly after Jordan Hill was lost with a season ending hip injury. Gasol’s value could hardly be lower, making him tough to flip, and the Howard Question might have to be answered earlier than expected. Or maybe the Lakers eat yet another coaching contract, and fire D’Antoni.
The season is so far off the rails in ways the front office can’t have anticipated, so where they go from here is anyone’s guess. One thing they likely won’t sacrifice: A clean balance sheet beyond the 2014 season.
SACRAMENTO KINGS (16-26)
First Half Recap: As mom likes to say, “Here’s the thing…”
The Kings haven’t been good this year, but they weren’t expected to be. And when you start to break it down a little, there are a few things to like, starting with the fact Sacramento is trending in the right direction. After a 4-12 start, the Kings have gone a much more respectable 12-14.
DeMarcus Cousins hasn’t exactly had the smoothest of seasons, having been on the wrong end of discipline from both the league and the franchise. Still, he’s averaging 18.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 3.5 dimes overall, and in January is up to 21.9/12.6/3.6, and is shooting over 50 percent.
After a couple seasons in the wilderness, Tyreke Evans has played well when healthy. Jimmer Fredette isn’t playing big minutes, but has vastly improved his shooting percentage over his rookie year.
Second Half Projection: The Kings are again headed to the lottery. They might also be headed to Seattle. Needless to say, the rest of this season will be dominated by relocation talk, but based on the last two months, whether the Kings land in the Pacific Northwest or Sacramento pulls a rabbit from the hat and keeps them, there’s the potential for growth in the on-floor product.
Brian and Andy Kamenetzky are sportswriters and radio hosts who have worked in sports media for over a decade. They have covered the Lakers and the NBA for eight seasons, for both the LATimes.com and ESPN.com, as well as ESPN The Magazine. Follow them on Twitter at @KamBrothers.