What’s Next for Los Angeles Lakers After 2013 NBA Playoff Exit?

The 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers rolled the dice and lost big.

The team’s attempt to resurrect aged talent without depth culminated with the inevitable disappointment of an opening-round sweep to the San Antonio Spurs.

It was surprising that the Lakers even pushed into the postseason as a No. 7 seed. The season was marked by a coaching change five games in, endless injuries to older stars and far too much losing to match preseason expectations as the latest superteam.

The early exit, coupled with Kobe Bryant’s season-ending surgery, is just the first sign of the potential collapse of a once-elite franchise that is now fully dipped into mediocrity.

This offseason presents even more reasons to cringe for Los Angeles.

The Lakers hope to sign free agent Dwight Howard to a long-term max contract, but whether Howard even wants to return remains in question.

But if they can bring back the talents of Howard, as has been reported likely to happen, it might be the only move they can accomplish.

The contract situation for next season, according to HoopsHype, is as follows:

Player 2013-14 Kobe Bryant $30,453,000 Pau Gasol $19,285,850 Steve Nash $9,300,500 Metta World Peace $7,727,280 (player option) Steve Blake $4,000,000 Chris Duhon $3,920,000 Jordan Hill $3,500,000 Jodie Meeks $1,550,000 (team option) Total: $78,186,630 That arithmetic tells a miserable tale for the Lakers, especially when you add in the $20 million-plus that Howard will earn if he returns.

The Lakers are in trouble.

As Larry Coon explains on ESPN Insider:

Life below the tax line? A fond memory at best. Cap room? A pipe dream. These teams have hoarded expensive players and have massive payrolls to show for their efforts. As a result they are not only over the tax line, they are also above the apron -- the point at w...

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