Mistakes happen. We sleep in a little too late or we forget to do a project. But for us, mistakes are simply, just that – mistakes. For the thirty NBA teams, mistakes cost them, potentially, tens of millions of dollars, a playoff appearance, or even a championship. They have been riddled throughout history. It can be draft picks (Blazers fans know what this is like), it can be free agency (can I get an amen from Knicks fans?), or it can be virtually anything else (in the case of the Kings, EVERYTHING ELSE). Thus, we present the worst mistakes from each NBA team over the past ten years.
The Los Angeles Lakers Biggest Mistake in the Past Ten Years
The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most successful franchises in all of sports. The Lakers have been winning championships since the late 1940’s, with the most recent coming in 2010. The team has won five championships since 2000 and has a rich history of winning. The team has only failed to make the playoffs five times since 1980. In fact since moving to Los Angeles in 1961, the Lakers have 11 championships and 47 playoff appearances. The Lakers achieved such accolades through great coaching and superb ownership. However in this article, let’s take a look at the franchise’s biggest mistake from the past decade.
The 2012 Off-Season
The Lakers went into the 2012 off-season coming off a 41-25 season. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak wanted more star quality on the court to play alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. The Staples Center was set for big changes, changes that would affect the franchise’s future long term.
The Lakers began their search for a star by targeting All-Star point guard Steve Nash. The Lakers going after Nash was seen as a risk due to the Nash’s age; he was nearing 40 years of age and father time was catching up with him. The Lakers decided to take the risk, and on July 4th, the team agreed to a sign-and-trade deal with the Phoenix Suns. The deal would see the Lakers send two first round picks and two second round picks to the Suns. The deal was officially confirmed on July 11th.
So the Lakers had the first piece of what they believes would be a future championship puzzle. But the Lakers weren’t done, as they would go on to make yet another blockbuster deal – a move which could be considered the franchise’s biggest mistake in a very long time.
One month after the Steve Nash trade was made official, the Lakers were set to make another big acquisition. On August 10th, the Lakers agreed to trade for Dwight Howard in a four team trade. The Lakers would trade away their current center Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers. The four team trade would see 12 players switch teams, including 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, who went to the Denver Nuggets at the time.
So the Lakers had their man. The team set out to add star power, and it successfully did so. The Lakers had acquired an All-Star center and three time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, helping the franchise re-gain its status as a title contender. What could possibly go wrong? Well, let’s find out.
The Dwight Howard Effect
Howard entered the season struggling with injuries, and those struggles would continue to nag him throughout the season. By this point the Lakers had already began to show the team’s instability by firing head coach Mike Brown. The team brought in Mike D’Antoni in November 2012 and by the All-Star break the Lakers were three and a half games back of the 8th seed in the Western Conference. The team’s other recently acquired star Steve Nash was also struggling with injury.
Bad Relationship With Kobe
To say Howard and Kobe Bryant never got along is an understatement. The two are such polar opposites that it would seem crazy to even think about playing them together. But as you would guess, once the season started the Lakers had no choice. Bryant, being the intense character that he is, playing alongside a relaxed big man like Howard is a disaster waiting to happen. Guess what, it was a complete disaster. Bryant couldn’t co-exist with Howard, both on and off the court.
Now it’s not like they hated each other, but the chemistry between the two was toxic. It was clear the Howard-Bryant combo was never going to be successful long term.
Performance On The Court
At the midway point of the season, Howard was averaging 17.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. A solid stat line, but the stats don’t tell the whole story. Howard looked relaxed on the court and never seemed to find the form that made him a superstar with the Orlando Magic. Lakers fans were growing impatient with Howard, as injuries became more of a regular occurrence and performances on the court were lackluster.
When people say ignore the stat line and focus on the eye-test alone, Howard was the perfect example. The stat line was a safety blanket for Howard because his performances were mediocre at best.
Howard also had a severe lack of skills around the basket. Not only did Howard lack the ability to shoot, but he also had no post game. Standing at 6’11”, a post game is expected. So with Howard finding it difficult to score with his back to the basket, Lakers fans would begin to notice the center’s weaknesses. Plus with Howard earning just over $19.5 million that season, it became clear he just wasn’t worth the investment going forward.
Every NBA fan can say they have a pet peeve. It could be about a player or just their favourite team. But for Lakers fans it was Howard’s free throws. That season Howard averaged 49.2% from the line, a truly awful number, and for a star player he should do better. The poor free throw numbers annoyed Lakers fans. In a way it just added to what was a truly disappointing performance from Howard that whole season.
The Result Of The Trade
The Lakers would go on to make the playoffs as the seventh, but they would lose to the San Antonio Spurs in four games. Yes, a clean sweep. The team that was expected to compete for a championship couldn’t even win a single playoff game. The Lakers lost Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant to long term injuries towards the end of the season. Also, the Lakers franchise lost its legendary owner Dr. Jerry Buss at the age of 80. This would put an exclamation mark on what was a terrible season in Los Angeles.
Now it would be unfair to put all of the blame on one man, but it quickly became clear that Howard was far from the solution. Howard never looked up to the challenge of winning a championship in Los Angeles. His on court play was average, and his attitude was even worse.
Howard gave the team very little and proved to the NBA world he isn’t suited to a high pressure, big market environment. The Lakers moved on and so did Howard, who immediately found a new home with the Houston Rockets. The Lakers organization as a whole will look back at this move and see it as a disappointing turn of events.