The Los Angeles Lakers haven't been very successful in the playoffs over the last two seasons. Of course there's a long-standing history of championships, and of course they laid down stars on their center court to commemorate what they have been, but the NBA is a "what have you done for me lately" league and lately has not been pretty for Los Angeles.
While the Lakers did manage to make the playoffs as the seventh-seed after a tumultuous season, it's going to be a difficult task to turn their recent history around after Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles and will be out of the playoffs. For the second time since Bryant entered the NBA, he will not be playing in the playoffs.
The Lakers advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs last season after a grueling seven-game series against the Denver Nuggets. In the second round they lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games.
Going back to the 2011-2012 season, the Lakers once again found themselves in the Western Conference semifinals, but were then swept by the Dallas Mavericks. After back-to-back championships it's been back-to-back second-round exits. In a town that demands championships it's simply not enough, but even after a huge roster overhaul the Lakers will be going against all odds to stop it from becoming a three-peat of playoff disappointments.
In fact, the last time the Lakers have advanced to the Western Conference finals without Phil Jackson at the helm was the season of 1997-1998 when Del Harris was coaching the team. Even further back, the last time the Lakers were in the NBA Finals without Jackson as their coach was during the 1990-1991 season, featuring Mike Dunleavy as the coach. The Lakers won their first game against the Chicago Bulls in that series, but lost the next four games to the Michael Jordan-led Bulls, ushering in the first championship of Jordan's six with Chicago.
The Lakers' current coach, Mike D'Antoni, hasn't advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since the 2007 playoffs. In the 2005 and 2006 playoffs, D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns advanced to the Western Conference finals, but lost both times.
Still, the story will be how the Lakers perform without Bryant. Going over the Lakers' history, the last time they won a playoff series without Bryant involved was during the 1994-1995 playoffs. The Lakers defeated the Seattle SuperSonics, 3-1, in the first round but were eliminated in the second round by the San Antonio Spurs.
Bryant has averaged 25.6 points per game in the playoffs through his career on 44 percent shooting, a difficult void to fill. Through their 2011-2012 playoff run, Bryant put up 30 points per game on average, yet it still wasn't enough for the Lakers to advance beyond the second round.
Their historical success is historical, but their present-day status is only a distant reflection of their championship pedigree. With no Bryant, no Jackson, a grueling season, and the history of this team going back to 1991, it's going to take a momentous effort from the players they have left on their roster that haven't been put on the shelf due to injury. The three-straight trips to the NBA Finals (two championships) that the franchise fired up after they acquired Pau Gasol mean nothing to the rest of the Western Conference teams that are above them in the seedings.