Are Listless Los Angeles Lakers a Preview of Life After Kobe Bryant?

There is strength in losing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dwelling near the bottom of the Western Conference cuts to the core of a team and fanbase accustomed to routinely adding new banners to their already-heavily decorated rafters. It further injures the already-wounded Kobe Bryant, who approaches every loss like most would a post-apocolyptic wasteland.

Neither Bryant nor the Lakers are used to this. Their fans certainly aren't used to this. During the 2004-05 campaign—the last time Los Angeles failed to clinch a playoff berth—the Lakers were at least semi-competitive, grinding out 34 wins while headed by a younger Bryant averaging more than 40 minutes a night.

These Lakers, who are already out of playoff contention, are terrible. There's no other word for it. They're barely recognizable and pale in comparison to those 2004-05 Lakers. At least those Lakers had an identity.

At least those Lakers had Bryant. He's the face; he's the franchise.

Life without him has been unbearable. Brandless basketball has spurred mounting losses, and mounting losses have stripped the Lakers of their appeal. Nationally televised games have been dropped, protracted losing streaks have become standard and lifeless efforts are the norm.

It begs the question: Is what we're seeing now a glimpse into Los Angeles' future without Bryant?


Temporary Suffering for Definitive Change

Think those games would have been dropped if Bryant was healthy? Think the Lakers would still be a nondescript basketball team with him? Think players would be openly admitting they have nothing to play for?

"Mostly pride and our fans and the name that we have on our chests, more than anything," Pau Gasol said when asked what the Lakers had left to play for, via ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne.

Los Angeles' futility isn't a secret; it's a well-known fact ...

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