What Are LA Lakers Playing for During Injury-Ravaged Season?

With a season that has gone from bad to abysmal, what are the Los Angeles Lakers playing for right now?

Forget about when or if Kobe Bryant will return—that’s not the here and now. Forget that Pau Gasol was putting up some highly efficient numbers before being put on the shelf for at least a week with a groin injury.

This is about a bunch of bargain-basement castoffs who have gone from the Bad News Bears to the Who-Cares Bears. Most of these guys are playing for a contract next year, and for some of them, it won’t be with the Lakers.

Are they playing for the name on the front, or the name on the back of their jerseys?

Ramona Shelburne for ESPN Los Angeles addressed the issue when she observed that it doesn't actually feel like it matters anymore. When asked what was left for his team to play for, however, Gasol said this:

Mostly pride and our fans and the name that we have on our chests, more than anything. It's not looking and feeling good right now, but you've got to play through it and do your very best.

There may, in fact, still be some pride, but there’s also an inescapable dilemma: The Lakers just don’t have the guns this season. End of story, except there’s still 35 games to go and the Lakers are a story unto themselves. This is the land of all the banners, after all.

How did we get to this historical awfulness?

A simple answer, really. Management decided to surround three aging stars with a bunch of draft busts and other assorted spare parts. There was a method to the madness—a season-long audition process that would help clear the decks of salary commitments.

And then the dice were rolled and came up snake-eyes, over and over again. Bryant returned from Achilles surgery and promptly fractured his knee. Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry were all injured in short order and are still on t...

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