The Lost Decade – Part 1 (2010-16)


A once-dominant franchise looked into the abyss. Then, improbably, it found its way again.

Pau Gasol grabbed the rebound, turned, and quickly tossed the ball to Lamar Odom. Odom, checking the clock, hurled the ball down court to no one in particular as the final seconds of the game ticked away. Kobe Bryant chased the ball down and, making his way slowly and emotionally through a sea of elated teammates and confetti, mounted the scorer’s table to commune with the delirious crowd at Staples Center.

It was June 16, 2010, and the Los Angeles Lakers had just secured their franchise its 16th championship and second in a row, this one over the rival Boston Celtics. The core of Bryant, Gasol, Odom, and Andrew Bynum looked to remain intact for years as Bynum entered his athletic prime. Jeff Van Gundy spoke for much of the basketball world when he said on the broadcast just after that Game 7 victory, “there’s no reason to think this team couldn’t three-peat.”

(Image/Nathaniel Butler/NBA)

But they didn’t. That failure, and the team’s increasingly desperate efforts to secure Bryant a championship-caliber team for his final years in the league, set in motion a cascade of misfortunes that saw the Lakers fail to see playoff basketball for six years running – far and away from the longest such streak in franchise history. Now, ten years after Bryant hopped onto that table clinging to the game ball, the Lakers are once again hunting the ultimate prize.

The Decline

During the 2010 playoff run, there had been signs that the Lakers and Spurs were no longer as far ahead of the Western Conference as they had been for ten years. The Lakers had to endure two bruising series – in the first round against a rising Oklahoma City Thunder team featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden and in the conference finals against Carmelo Anthony and the gritty Denver Nuggets – before even seeing Boston. 

The team’s off-season moves in 2010, adding wing defender Matt Barnes and backup guard Steve Blake while re-signing Derek Fisher, were meant to ensure the depth and defensive toughness needed to fend off up-and-coming-teams in the West. The Lakers managed to post a 57-25 regular season in 2010-2011, good for the second seed in the competitive West and identical to the team’s 2009-2010 performance. Odom became the first Laker to win 6th Man of the Year.

Yet, in the second round of the playoffs, the Lakers were dominated by a Dallas Mavericks team playing a surprisingly modern brand of basketball. Combining Dirk Nowitzki‘s smooth jumper and isolation play with Jason Kidd‘s pick and roll dominance and spacing the floor for them with a bench full of shooters, they clinically dissected the vaunted Laker defense in four games.

The Lakers’ frustration with their inability to slow down the Dallas attack boiled over in the 4th quarter of a 30-point blowout in Game 4, when Bynum delivered a forearm shot to an airborne J.J. Barea, ensuring that he would begin the 2011-2012 campaign with a suspension. The ugliness of the hit and the game in which it took place to cast a pall over the Lakers’ off-season. There was a sense that major changes would have to be made.

(Image/Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News)

The first change came immediately after the playoffs, when longtime head coach Phil Jackson, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, announced his retirement. Former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, freshly fired after consecutive 60 win seasons coaching LeBron James, was hired to replace him.

Then the off-season was derailed by a stalemate between the league and the Players’ Association on a new collective bargaining agreement. Training camp, preseason and the month of November passed without a resolution. In the meantime, budding superstar Chris Paul had informed the then-New Orleans Hornets that he did not intend to resign with the team the following year.

Seeking a younger star whose prime – alongside Bynum’s – would prolong the Lakers’ championship window for Bryant, and with one eye on Bryant’s eventual retirement, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak made his move. A three-team deal was arranged that would move Paul to the Lakers and Gasol to the Rockets, with New Orleans being compensated with several rotation players in Odom, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, and Kevin Martin, along with a first-round pick from Houston.

But the basketball world was to be stunned twice on the same day. Only hours after the trade was reported, Commissioner David Stern announced that he was vetoing it because New Orleans, which was owned by the league at the time, had received what he considered inadequate compensation.

(Image/Getty Images)

Fury among smaller market owners at the persistent ability of large markets and big-name teams to lure young stars away from their own teams – and still stinging from James’ dramatic departure from Cleveland to Miami the previous year – was rumored to have played a part in the decision to prevent the Lakers from pairing Paul and Bryant. In any case, the deal that sent Paul to the Clippers shortly thereafter was not obviously more advantageous for New Orleans than the one offered by the Rockets and Lakers from a basketball perspective.

Meanwhile, the cancellation of the trade put the Lakers in an extremely awkward position relative to Odom and Gasol, who had been made painfully aware that they were considered expendable. Odom voiced his displeasure openly and was speedily dealt with Dallas to prevent further unpleasantness.

Gasol clearly wasn’t pleased with the idea of being moved but took a philosophical approach. “I understand (Lamar’s) response, and I understand how he felt about it and how you could feel that way. But you have to look at it from a different perspective and not try to take it so personally.”

After serving his suspension when the season finally began in late December, Andrew Bynum played like a potential franchise cornerstone. Putting up career numbers in both points and rebounds at 18.7ppg and 11.6rpg, he peppered the season with several exceptional individual performances. Alongside Bryant and Gasol, he helped lead the team to a 41-25 record in the lockout-shortened season, good for third in the west.

Yet again, however, the second round and eventual Western Conference champion proved too much for the Lakers. This time, it was Durant, Westbrook, and the Thunder who sent them off in a one-sided 4-1 series. The Thunder were big enough to compete with the Lakers’ elite size but did so on younger legs and with superior athleticism. Durant put on a scoring display against his former idol Bryant, and once again a Laker team with title aspirations found itself at home watching the Conference Finals.

(Image/Richard A. Rowe/OKC Thunder)

At this point, the Lakers and Bryant himself began to grow desperate to build a roster that was capable of championship contention. It was increasingly clear that the roster as it was, two years older since their last real playoff run and missing major contributors from that year, was simply not able to beat elite teams in the postseason anymore. Rumors pointedly connecting the Lakers to Dwight Howard began to circulate.

The Dwightmare

The first domino to fall in the fateful summer of 2013 was not Howard, but Steve Nash. Nash and the Phoenix Suns had mutually agreed to part ways, and executed a sign-and-trade that involved the Lakers sending two first and two second-round draft picks for his services. An all-time great facilitator and shooter, Nash remained widely respected around the league but faced questions about his health and advanced age at 38.

Then a month later the larger shoe – both literally and figuratively – dropped. In a ludicrously complicated deal involving four teams, the Lakers gave up Bynum and two more lightly protected draft picks and received as compensation Howard, Earl Clark, and Chris Duhon. With the addition of bona fide superstars in Howard and Nash to pair with Bryant and Gasol, the Lakers seemed poised to return to the top of NBA basketball.

The combined Nash and Howard trades were recognized at the time to represent a colossal risk, but with a potentially colossal payoff. The talent level alone provided championship potential if everything went right. There were, however, a disconcerting preponderance of things that could go wrong.

(Image/Sports Illustrated)

First among worries about the new team was health. Howard was coming into the year in recovery from back surgery, and Nash had back concerns as well as his age to contend with.

The second was the scheme. Coach Mike Brown had made the decision to utilize a Princeton offense. He made the decision well before the Nash and Howard trades and may have done well to reconsider. The offense, which emphasized screening and passing reads over post isolation for bigs, was more suited to the combination of Bynum and Gasol than Howard, who expected to be a focal point of the Lakers offense from the low post.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Howard’s free agency at the end of the season loomed over everyone.

Things began to go wrong very quickly. The team lost all 8 of its pre-season games and first three of the regular season as they struggled to integrate both new players and a new scheme. Nash suffered a non-displaced leg fracture in the second game of the year and missed almost two months. Howard, looking to make a point, played from the beginning of the year in spite of expectations that his surgery could keep him out until January. He was never 100%.

Coach Brown finally won a game with his new team against Detroit on November 4 and was promptly fired. The front office was very impatient to see a team with so much talent come together, and quickly reached a judgment that Brown wasn’t the man for the job. After a brief flirtation with bringing back Phil Jackson, who requested time to consider, the Lakers instead brought in former Nash coach and offensive mind Mike D’Antoni.

Injuries and a lack of clear roles continued to hurt the Laker’s record and their chemistry. Nash and Bryant were frequently at odds with Howard, who continued to push for post-up opportunities instead of embracing the more active role prescribed for bigs in D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense.

“It’s been difficult really to get him into that game – running into pick and rolls, diving hard, looking for the ball,” Nash told local media in February. “We really haven’t found that rhythm from him yet.” The Lakers limped into the All-Star break at 25-29, sitting several games out of the playoff picture.

The day after the All-Star game, Dr. Buss died after a long fight with cancer, leaving the running of the team to his six children, principally Jeanie and Jim. It appeared to be symbolic: the man who had turned the Lakers into “Showtime” and seen them win 10 championships in his 33 years of ownership passing away just as his team seemed to be unraveling in slow motion.

After the break, as the team fought through injuries and continued friction in the locker room, it was Bryant who began to simply take over. Securing game after game with exceptional individual performances for a player in his 17th season, Bryant leads the Lakers to a league-best 20-8 mark following the All-Star game. He was himself fighting through a host of small injuries, and his minutes and intensity were so high during this stretch that Kupchak reportedly spoke to Bryant about preserving his body. Bryant replied that his efforts were needed to secure a playoff spot.

He paid the price with three games to go in the season. Making a move late in a game against the Golden State Warriors, Bryant hit the floor on a foul call, reaching immediately for his ankle. After hitting his free throws, he went to the locker room and did not return. After the game, the team confirmed that Bryant had torn his Achilles tendon. The injury, everyone knew, effectively ended the Lakers season. Bryant had dragged them into the playoffs, but without him, the Lakers had no chance against Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

(Image/ Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

With Nash out from a lingering back issue that came attached with nerve damage and Bryant out for the better part of a year, the Lakers blitzed Howard with over-the-top shows of affection in an attempt to convince him to re-sign after a dumpster fire of a season. They did not work. Howard chose to leave the pressure of Los Angeles – reportedly after ownership refused to part ways with Bryant – and team up instead with James Harden in Houston.

Howard’s departure, while not entirely unforeseen, still came as a gut punch to the organization. For the second time in a decade – along with Shaquille O’Neal‘s trade request after the 2004 season – a star center had decided to leave Los Angeles rather than continue playing with Bryant. Howard was gone, Nash was approaching 40 with chronic back issues, and Bryant had just had his 17th NBA season ended by one of the most devastating injuries in sports. Adding insult to injury, the Lakers had given up a slew of draft picks to acquire Nash and Howard, limiting their ability to make additional moves to stop the bleeding.

The Lakers were out of options, forced to acknowledge something that they had avoided for decades. For the next several years, the last of Bryant’s career, they were going to be a bad team.

Rock Bottom

With little expectation that Bryant would be available for much if any of the 2013-2014 season, the team put together what amounted to a discount roster. They realized they weren’t likely to see playoff basketball and decided to plan for the following year instead, padding the roster with light contracts while moving their long term commitments. They could use the draft picks remaining to them to draft or trade for promising talent and pair that talent with Bryant and Nash to attract free agents when the season was over, or so the front office reasoned.

Yet, astonishingly given his injury status and age, early in the season the Lakers made Bryant the highest-paid player in basketball with a two-year contract extension. The team framed the widely-criticized contract as a loyalty move, rewarding Bryant for sticking with the team and delivering with such regularity. The unavoidable fact, however, was that giving so much money to Bryant limited the team’s ability to put together a title-caliber roster, even if a star free agent chose to join them.

(Image/Orange County Register)

After a surprising 13-13 start, the season regressed to expectations. Bryant miraculously returned from his Achilles injury in December only to go down a week later with a broken bone in his knee, once again out for the season. Nash, constantly struggling with back issues, played only 15 games and was unable to make an impact even when playing. The Lakers finished 27-55, losing the most games in franchise history. The leading scorer for the season was Nick Young at just over 17ppg, edging out an aging Gasol.

Over the summer of 2014, the Lakers drafted promising Kentucky forward Julius Randle and little-known guard Jordan Clarkson from Missouri. They also parted ways with Coach D’Antoni and replaced him with Showtime-era Laker, Kobe Bryant mentor, and former NBA Coach of the Year Byron Scott. Looking to pair a max-contract caliber player with Bryant and Nash, the Lakers and Gasol parted in free agency after 6 years and 2 title runs.

After making concerted efforts to sign Carmelo Anthony or Kyle Lowry in free agency and even making a long-shot pitch to LeBron James, the Lakers found themselves empty-handed. No elite player wanted to attach themselves to a roster with two injured, aging stars and a collection of unproven youths and mediocre role players surrounding them. Bryant’s contract had predictably become an albatross, helping to keep elite free agents away because market-savvy players knew the team wouldn’t have the money left over for a high-level supporting cast.

The front office entered a holding pattern, repeating its process from the previous year by padding out the roster with cheap, short-term contracts and waiting out the season.

The Lakers’ 2014-2015 season was aptly summarized on opening night when Randle went down with a broken leg that ended his rookie season in an 18-point home loss to Houston. Clarkson played very well throughout the season in a role enlarged by injuries, but he was the lone bright spot in another lost year.

Bryant, returning from his second consecutive season-ending injury at 37, was a shell of himself and only able to play 35 games. Nash never saw the court, choosing to retire instead of continuing injuring his back. The team finished 21-61, breaking the previous year’s record for most losses in Laker history.

Armed with the second overall pick in 2015, the Lakers selected lefty point guard D’Angelo Russell and supplemented him late in the first round with a freak athlete in Larry Nance, Jr. As in the previous two years, however, the Lakers struck out on top-flight free agents. They made runs at LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol, but with the state of their roster never merited serious consideration. Embarrassingly, the Lakers asked a bemused Aldridge for a second free agency meeting after media reports surfaced that he had been unimpressed with their first attempt. He chose the Spurs. The Lakers instead added Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams, and Brandon Bass.

The 2015-2016 season was widely expected to be Bryant’s last, and he confirmed that shortly after the season began. With that announcement and the acknowledgment that the preponderance of youth on the team made playoff contention unlikely, the season became the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour. Crowds everywhere he went cheered him wildly while their teams beat up on the Lakers on the court. He did his best to perform, but as he said, he no longer had much left to give.

During the season, the team suffered from chemistry issues as Russell struggled with his maturity and the old-school, tough love mentality of Coach Scott. Navigating the locker room and coach while playing in the shadow of Bryant’s last year, all while finding his role alongside similarly ball-dominant guards in Bryant and Clarkson, made Russell’s rookie year a difficult one.

The Lakers’ 17-65 record was, for the third year running, the worst in their history. Kobe Bryant provided fans with one final show, dropping 60 in his final game and leading an improbable last-minute comeback on his way out. That game and another second overall pick for the upcoming 2016 draft were bittersweet compensation for Laker fans watching their franchise cornerstone retire with no obvious heir. The team remained in shambles.

(Image/Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

Given his fraught relationship with both Russell and the three-point line, Scott was fired after the season and replaced with the highly-sought-after Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton. The Lakers used their second overall pick to draft a lanky wing with elite two-way potential in Brandon Ingram. He created with Randle and Russell a core of young players with complementary skill-sets to develop in Bryant’s absence. Walton, known as a player-friendly coach, was considered (at the time) an excellent choice to execute that development.

Jim Buss, in charge of basketball operations, and Kupchak, then made a pair of very bad decisions. The NBA salary cap was given an unexpectedly large boost in 2016 based on an extremely lucrative television deal just signed by the league. As a result, several players that summer received absurdly large contracts from cash-drunk teams. Two of the worst contracts of the summer though were given out by Buss and Kupchak.

Shortly after the beginning of free agency, apparently resigned to the reality that they still had no significant interest from high-level free agents, they announced the signings of center Timofey Mozgov and wing, Luol Deng, to 4-year contracts worth $64 and $72 million, respectively. Even in the irrationally exuberant summer of 2016, the length and size of the contracts for aging role players were widely mocked across the league.

Buss and Kupchak had shackled the young Laker players to Deng and Mozgov for their formative years, and by overpaying the two veterans so extravagantly had made it essentially impossible for the Lakers to sign a max-level player without moving one of them.

Additionally, as a consequence of the Howard trade years earlier, unless the Lakers draft pick for 2017 fell in the top 3, they would lose their first-round picks for 2017 and 2018. If the young Lakers proved to be good and the team won, their rebuild might be strangled by the loss of draft picks. If the team was bad enough to keep its draft picks, it would probably mean that the young players weren’t as valuable as expected. The Lakers, rival executives began to say more and more loudly, were now just another team.

For part 2, click here.

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Looking Back At The 2010 Lakers Championship Roster

(Image/Bleacher Report)

As we round out the decade, here at Lakers Fanclub UK we are looking back over the past 10 years and the events that took place.

We started by listing the players that the Los Angeles Lakers drafted during the tanking years (2013-2017), and where they are now. You can find that article here.

Now, we dive into the 2010 Championship winning roster in similar fashion. Who they were, what they have done since, and where they are now.

(Image/Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant

Even after his historic 2010 championship run, Kobe Bryant didn’t slow down. The Black Mamba continued to play at a level of excellence in search of a 6th championship, however injuries to both himself and his teammates deterred Bryant of acquiring another championship.

Bryant suffered a tragic injury in 2014, tearing his Achilles. Thus, making him a shell of his former self. Following this he eventually retired in the 2016 season, with that memorable 60 point performance that also featured a game winner, in his final outing.

Despite constant requests from his fans, Bryant hasn’t made any indication of returning to basketball. Instead, he has started ventures in numerous new fields; from storytelling, to film-making, and athlete preparation. He produced the short film Dear Basketball, which went onto win an Oscar, as well as an Emmy Award.

Kobe Bryant also started the ESPN show, Detail, where he goes through film of athletes to highlight their skill-set and reveal some of their weaknesses. In addition to this, he opened the Mamba Sports Academy, a training center that assists athletes of all levels in reaching their highest potential.

He has even dipped his toe into storytelling, by releasing several books. His first notable release was Kobe Bryant: The Mamba Mentality, where he described his many years in the league. His latest project is the Wizenard series, a collection of stories aimed at teaching the youth life lessons through the metaphor of sports.

It should come to no surprise that Kobe Bryant is still doing so much and achieving success in the process. Bryant has brought the fervor and perseverance for perfection from the basketball court to his daily life.

He may not be returning to the basketball court directly, but Kobe Bryant is continuing to leave his mark on the game that made him.

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(Image/Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sport)

Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol remained as one of the NBA’s top big men following the 2010 championship. He left the Lakers for the Chicago Bulls in the 2014 free agency period, and earned All-Star recognition whilst in in Chicago.

Gasol has since continued to play in the NBA but has been slowly regressing. Mainly being a spark off the bench and a veteran leader. Currently, he is rehabbing a foot injury that resulted in him being waived by his most recent team, the Portland Trail-Blazers.

Now 39-years-old, Pau Gasol has not mentioned any sign of retirement and it seems that he is still interested in making an NBA return. We may see him on the court again very soon, once healthy.

(Image/Getty Images)

Derek Fisher

Derek Fisher has been a player that has never really left the sport of basketball after winning the 2010 championship.

In terms of his playing career, Fisher bounced around from team-to-team (Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks), before eventually retiring in the 2013-14 season. Obviously, there was that 1st spell with the Lakers too, that resulted in 3 NBA Championships (2000-02). Bumping his ring total up to 5, alongside the 2009 and 2010 triumphs.

Fisher immediately signed for a coaching role with the New York Knicks, following his playing career, which lasted for less than 2 seasons. He was fired midway through the 2015-16 season. Afterwards, he tapped his toes into the broadcasting world, appearing as a guest speaker and analyst for many shows. This lead to Fisher joining Spectrum SportsNet to be an in-studio analyst for the Lakers.

Now, Derek Fisher is working as the Head Coach for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.

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(Image/Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Andrew Bynum

Andrew Bynum has one of the more sad post-championship stories of the roster. He did set record numbers following the championship win, even being chosen as an All-Star in 2012. However, clashes with Kobe Bryant resulted in Bynum being traded away to the Philadelphia 76ers.

In Philadelphia he faced a career changing injury that forced him sit out the entire 2012-13 season. Bynum never returned to being the All-Star he once was and only played 26 NBA games following his Lakers tenure.

It was reported in 2018 that Bynum was looking to make an NBA comeback after fully rehabbing his injured knee. The intent is certainly there for the now 32-year-old to return.

Andrew Bynum’s style of play would not necessarily fit into the modern NBA. He is unlikely to get a spot on an NBA team, but there is a chance that he could opt to play in Ice Cube‘s Big 3 league, or even overseas. Either way, it will be nice to see the once star player back on the court.

(Image/AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Ron Artest/Metta World Peace

Ron Artest, now known as Metta World Peace, has had an illustrative career to say the least, and this trend continued after his championship run with the Lakers.

Following the championship, World Peace continued to play in the NBA for 6 years, with brief spells in China and Italy sandwiched in-between. However injuries and age caught up with him and his playing career came to an end. Whilst with the Lakers in-fact, in 2017.

Since retiring, World Peace took on the job of being a Player Development Coach for the Lakers’ G-League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers, where he currently still is. He also played in Ice Cube’s Big 3 league in the 2018 off-season, and has appeared in the media on numerous occasions as a guest speaker and analyst.

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(Image/Harry How/Getty Images)

Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom is a player loved by fans of the purple and gold. Mainly for being one of the best sixth men in franchise history.

Although, Odom’s career has taken a downward spiral since then. He played 3 more seasons in the NBA, beyond the 2010 championship season, but was then forced to leave after he could not obtain a roster spot in the 2014 free agency period.

Odom went onto play overseas in the Euro-League, but was only to play 2 games after suffering a back injury. As recently as 2018, he planned on playing for the Chinese Basketball Association, but ended up backing out because he did not see himself as fit enough. Odom was also deactivated by the Big 3 league in 2019, after just 1 game.

Overall, Lamar Odom has encountered much bad luck in his later basketball career. But given his personal problems, it’s great to see him fit and healthy off the court.

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(Image/The Bird Writes)

Shannon Brown

Shannon Brown hasn’t had the most exciting career of any NBA player, but he was a contributing factor to the Lakers 2010 championship nonetheless.

Since then, Brown played 5 more seasons in the NBA, with the Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, and New York Knicks, until he was finally waived by the Miami Heat in 2014.

Brown then went on to play in the G-League between 2016 and 2018. He then eventually landed in the Big 3 league, getting drafted by the Aliens in 2019.

Excluding basketball, Shannon Brown has appeared in some films including Think Like a Man and Trainwreck.

(Image/Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

Jordan Farmar

Jordan Farmar had a decent NBA career, mainly being a role player and a solid 3-point shooter during his prime years. However, he suffered some injuries and his game started to falter at a rapid rate.

After the 2010 championship, Farmar bounced around the NBA with the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, and even with a second spell with the Lakers. His final team was the Sacramento Kings, where he was waived in 2016.

Currently, Jordan Farmar is involved with philanthropic work as he attempts to bring basketball beyond the United States and use it as a way to unite Palestinian and Israel youth.

Harry How/Getty Images

Luke Walton

Luke Walton retired shortly after the Lakers championship run of 2010, following a spell with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013.

Walton turned to coaching, joining the Golden State Warriors as an Assistant Coach in 2014 where was a large part of their dominance over the 2014-18 period. He took over as Head Coach of the Warriors during the 2015-16 season when Steve Kerr dealt with an illness. His performances, and winning record of 39-4, gained him the attention of the Lakers who hired him to be their new Head Coach.

Walton’s coaching tenure with the Lakers was lackluster to say the least. Both parties parted ways in 2019 and Walton can now be found on the sidelines for the Sacramento Kings.

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Sasha Vujacic

Sasha Vujacic was a developing player while he was on the Lakers’ championship roster. One that never really was given the best of opportunities to develop.

Vujacic did hit 2 clutch free throws during game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, and was loved by Lakers fans for it. However, his career did not go much further. He last played for the New York Knicks in 2017, and has not been in the league since.

Now he can be found playing his trade in Italy, and focusing on helping his family’s wine business in his spare time. Recently however, Vujacic has shown interest in returning to the NBA, and has worked out with a few teams.

(Image/Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Josh Powell

Josh Powell‘s NBA career never really took shape the way we might have hoped, but he has not quit on basketball.

Following the 2010 season, Powell left the Lakers for the Atlanta Hawks, After that, he bounced around many overseas teams, 12 in-fact, all on short term deals.

Josh Powell did have a brief spell with the Houston Rockets in 2014, where he also served as an Assistant Coach, but that was short lived. He is now playing in the Big 3 league, as he hopes to continue playing basketball professionally.

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(Image/Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Adam Morrison

Following the 2010 season, Adam Morrison never found his place back onto an NBA roster.

He did try however, spending a further 2 seasons overseas with Red Star Belgrade and Besiktas. This earned him a spot on the Brooklyn Net’s 2012 Summer League roster, which lead to a contract with the Portland Trail Blazers. But he was waived a short time later, and that was the last we saw of him on a basketball court.

In 2013, he returned to his alma mater Gonzaga University to take classes. He did become an Assistant Video Coordinator for the Bulldogs for the 2014-15 season.

Nowadays, you can find Adam Morrison on the sidelines for Mead High School, his alma mater, where he is an Assistant Coach.

(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

D.J. Mbenga

D.J. Mbenga left the Lakers after winning the 2010 championship, and joined the New Orleans Hornets, for what was his final season in the NBA.

He then took his trade to China and the Philippines, before catching the attention of the New York Knicks in 2014. However, he was waived within 16 days, which lead to his retirement.

D.J. Mbenga is now working with his foundation, the Mbenga Foundation to help children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and refugees in Belgium.

3 Ways in Which Kyle Kuzma Can Improve Going into 2020

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers
(Image/Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers have started the season on fire and have maintaining the best record in the NBA, one of their key pieces has yet to fully ignite as of yet. With so much at stake going forward, how can Kyle Kuzma step it up going into 2020?

The Los Angeles Lakers have been a juggernaut to start the season, with a league’s best record and team chemistry at an all-time high, things are really looking up for the purple and gold. For fans of the Lakers, this moment in time feels so sweet.

With the memory of Kobe Bryant‘s torn Achilles still etched into the memory of Lakers fans, The Chris Paul trade being vetoed, Dwight Howard leaving for Houston, numerous lottery picks and missing the playoffs year after year. Finally, Lakersnation has a team that makes all of the heartaches of the past feel like a distant memory.

When talking about this team, much of the plaudits must be given to the likes of General Manager Rob Pelinka for assembling the team, Coach Frank Vogel for executing the gameplan on a nightly basis and keeping the team in the top 10 on both ends of the floor and to LeBron James and Anthony Davis who have been incredible so far this season.

With Davis and LeBron both considered MVP candidates, it is easy to see how the Lakers are off to such a fast start.

While the likes of AD and LeBron are playing incredible, one player that huge things were expected of is Kyle Kuzma.

While being the last remaining member of the Laker’s beloved young core, Kuzma was kept in hope that he would reach the next level of his development and become the 3rd defacto star for the purple and gold. As of right now, Kuzma has fallen far short of expectation.

A lot of the blame can be put on the ankle injury which he received whilst playing for Team USA, which in turn forced Kuz to miss training camp and pre-season. In essence, Kuzma has been playing catch up all season.

With the season far from over, there is still plenty of time for Kuzma to find a rich vein of form, if this happens, the Lakers could be an even scarier team then they have shown.

Here are 3 ways in which Kyle Kuzma can improve going forward this season:

Los Angeles Lakers
(Image/Logan Riely/NBAE)

Buy into the Kevin Love role

There is nobility in being the 3rd star on a championship-contending team. For every LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, you have a Chris Bosh, for every Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, you have Lamar Odom and for every LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, you have Kevin Love.

The role of the 3rd star is to sacrifice individually in order for the team to succeed as a unit.

Kevin Love was an absolute monster for the Minnesota Timberwolves. His ability to rebound, shoot from anywhere and be the number one option on the Timberwolves team made him a multiple time all-star and widely considered one of the best power forwards in the NBA.

However, upon Love’s arrival in Cleveland, he realized that his role was going to drastically change.

When you have transcendent talents such as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on your roster, you do everything in order to put them in the best position to win. Which meant forcing Love into a role he has never done throughout his basketball career. 

The Cavaliers asked Love to grab rebounds and spot up from the 3-point line. For a superstar, swallowing your pride and doing what is best for the team is a humbling experience.

Love did this for the Cavaliers and in return he won a ring.

While Kyle Kuzma isn’t the same caliber of star Kevin Love is, the message remains the same, grab rebounds, outlet the ball to LeBron or AD and wait on the wings for a spot-up 3-point shot.

If Kuzma can hit the 3-point shot at an above-average rate, he has the potential to be a 20ppg scorer. He has the confidence in his shot, he has the ability and if he buys into his role fully, he will be the 3rd star the Los Angeles Lakers need.

Los Angeles Lakers
(Image/Joe Murphy/NBAE)

Continue to work hard on defense

Needless to say, so far in Kyle Kuzma’s career, we can safely say that being an elite defender has not been one of his calling cards.

Kuzma since being drafted has been guilty of getting beat by his opposing player for an easy basket or a pull-up jumper right in his face. This has caused a lot of frustration not just for his coaches and fellow teammates but also for fans of the purple and gold.

The most frustrating aspect for all involved is knowing that Kuzma is a willing defender, who is willing to work hard but his technique on the defensive end left a lot to be desired.

Kuzma’s main problem on defense is his footwork. While some of the best defenders in the NBA slide their feet in order to stay in front of their man, Kuzma would bounce on the soles of his feet, this led to players easily reading Kuzma’s footwork and throwing in hesitations and head fakes in order to get Kuzma off balance allowing the opposing player to get easy buckets.

With the likes of Frank Vogel, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and Phil Handy on staff, Kuzma has a wealth of knowledge in order to improve as a defender.

The effects of their tutelage have already been seen in Kuzma’s game. While he is still prone occasionally to bounce on the soles of his feet, he has also slowly but surely worked that out of his game and adopted the more conventional slide technique which will allow him to stay in front of his man.

Kuzma has the quickness to stay in front of his man, he has the hard-working mentality to want to get better and he is willing to put the effort in to be the best player he can be on both sides of the ball.

Continued development with the coaching staff could have Kuzma being a defensive stopper of sorts, rather than being a turnstile.

Los Angeles Lakers
(Image/Logan Riely/NBAE)

Become the 2nd Unit leader

Having been a mainstay in the Lakers starting line-up for much of his Laker’s career, it must have come as a surprise to Kyle Kuzma this off-season that he was being asked to come off the bench after being successful in the starting line-up alongside LeBron.

Adding an otherworldly talent in Anthony Davis will force you to make changes.

The Lakers so far have been spot on in moving Kuzma to the bench. With AD and LeBron playing incredibly together, it makes no sense to stick Kuzma into the starting line-up. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

While Kuzma hasn’t exactly been great in the 2nd unit as of yet as he has been working his way back to fitness, the Lakers should be encouraging Kuz to take a larger role in the team and lead the 2nd unit.

Kuzma, while young has the perfect attributes to be a leader of men. In Kyle Kuzma, you have a young man who has grown up in Flint, Michigan, who did not get many Division I offers to play college ball, who was overlooked the majority of his college career. He used people overlooking his talent and skill and turned that into fuel for the fire.

Kuzma is a hard worker who wants to get better at his craft and learn every day, willing to reach out to the titans of the game such as Kobe Bryant in order to learn everything he can in order to be the most well-rounded player he can be. His hard-working demeanor has garnered him respect from teammates significantly older than him. Kuzma has earned his place every step of the way and knows that if he doesn’t work hard it could all disappear.

With a player of his mentality, you need to challenge him to do more. While LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the Superstars, Kuzma can play the role of the leader of the 2nd unit.

This would allow for Kuz to dominate in the second unit and put the pressure on the other teams 2nd unit. This can elongate the Laker’s lead making it much easier to put teams away early on.

Kyle Kuzma’s talent is undeniable, he has the God-given ability to be a superstar. If he can realize this potential, then the purple and gold have another star on their hands.

Here is hoping everything clicks together on time in order for the Lakers to make a deep playoff run.

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