Blueprint for Los Angeles Lakers’ Version of ‘Rebuilding’ Process

The Los Angeles Lakers aren't like most NBA teams.

They compete for championships as if by birthright. They've missed the playoffs just five times in their 65-year history and have won 16 championships in 31 trips to the NBA Finals.

Their storied history, attractive location in Southern California and massive revenue streams leave the Lakers all but immune to the countervailing forces that dictate the league's circle of championship life. Superstars just don't ditch the purple and gold of their own free will and accord.

That is, until Dwight Howard decided to bolt for more accommodating climes with the Houston Rockets.

The Lakers don't rebuild; they reload.

Except they may have to resort to the former if their plans for the latter fall through next summer.

For now, the Lakers are trapped between those two paths—in the NBA's version of no-man's land. They would've been hard-pressed to contend for a title in 2014 with Dwight and certainly won't be any closer without him.

In fact, the Western Conference looks to be so stacked with legitimate hopefuls—including the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Howard's Rockets—that finding a spot in the postseason will be a tough enough task in itself for the Purple and Gold.

The Golden State Warriors should have a spot of their own sewn up on the fringes, with the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks and perhaps even the newly rebranded New Orleans Pelicans duking it out for the final two or three seeds.

The Lakers, meanwhile, will look to break through that pack of potential playoff participants with a roster whose core features a soon-to-be 35-year-old coming off a torn Achilles (Kobe Bryant), a 39-year-old point guard who missed a personal-worst 32 games last season (Steve Nash) and a 33-year-old coming off...

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