No one had high hopes or expectations for the Lakers this past season. It has been a rebuilding period the past few seasons and not to mention, a struggling process, to say the least, for the championship oriented franchise. An all-time franchise worst 17-65 record gave nothing for the fans nor the franchise to cheer about. Though, the only savior of the moment, Kobe Bryant as he announced his plans to retire at the end of the season early on in the form of a poem.
Apart from the proclaimed “Kobe farewell tour”, the Lakers season was incredibly disappointing. A team filled with young raw talent and some veterans, there simply was never consistent production from the group of players. Rookie D’Angelo Russell struggled to start off the season but gained confidence through the course of the season. Glimpses of his potential were shown in bits and pieces. Easily his best performance of the season came against the Brooklyn Nets at the Staples Center, dropping a career-high 39 points including 8-12 from behind the arc. Fellow rookie, Larry Lance Jr., solidly impacted the team with energy and athletic ability.
Both rookies will play a bigger role next season. Though, easily the most consistent players, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, spear-headed the attack on most nights. Randle quickly became a double-double machine, finishing with 34 at the end of the season. The highlight of the Lakers season and one of the best highlights of the entire NBA season came on the last night of the regular season, Kobe’s last official game. Turning back the clock, Kobe scored an unthinkable 60 points on the Utah Jazz. The awe of the moment filled the Staples Center because quite frankly, no one had seen such a performance by any player at that stage of their career. Just as he did throughout his 20 years in the league, with the Lakers, Kobe gave every inch of energy and determination he had left in his 37-year-old body on the night.
He single-handedly led the comeback and gave the Lakers their 17th win of the season. Most importantly, after a struggling season, instilled genuine excitement to the entire Lakers fanbase in one special night. Now looking forward to next season and a future with a Kobe-less Lakers team, the franchise will have important business in the off-season. The Lakers organization wasted little time to start changing the atmosphere in the team, as they fired head coach Byron Scott in late April. Luke Walton, Golden State Warriors assistant, was then appointed the new head coach of the Lakers and will be looking to lead the organization into a new direction.
With an already solid core of young players and the second overall pick in this year’s draft taking Simmons or Ingram depending on the 76ers choice, free agency will need to be a strong suit for the Lakers. With free agents like Kevin Durant, Hassan Whiteside and DeMar DeRozan in the market this summer, the Lakers will need to recruit at least one big name. Of course, alongside with other respectable role players. Free agency holds the fate of the team’s future without a doubt, therefore summer business is necessary if the team is to ever have a chance to return to their title challenging days.