Record: 45-37, 3rd in Pacific Division
Expectations were high heading into the season after the Lakers acquired Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard in the biggest blockbuster trade of the summer. Howard, who was labeled by many as Kobe Bryant’s heir apparent, immediately made the Lakers a preseason favorite for the NBA title. Those expectations, however, quickly crumbled after Howard’s subpar play coupled by an early-season coaching change and numerous injuries crippled the Lakers’ chances to re-establish themselves as one of the Western Conference’s elite teams. The season also was marked by the death of longtime owner Jerry Buss.
After the Lakers started the season 1-4, Coach Mike Brown was fired by the team. Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff took over as interim coach before the team hired Mike D’Antoni to a multiyear contract. The Lakers spoke to Brown’s predecessor, Phil Jackson, about the job first, but they ended up giving the position to D’Antoni after Jackson requested two days to think about the offer. D’Antoni made his coaching debut with the Lakers on November 20, but it did little to reverse the Lakers’ slide down the standings as injuries started to take their toll. Injuries to Steve Blake, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol played a key role in the Lakers posting a 20-26 record by the end of January.
In danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005, a healthier Lakers squad posted a winning record over the final three months of the season to qualify for the playoffs. But the team’s hopes of mounting a surprise playoff run were shattered in April when star Kobe Bryant suffered a torn left Achilles’ tendon. With Howard continuing to struggle as both an offensive and defensive leader for the Lakers in the wake of Bryant’s injury, the Lakers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. Howard left Los Angeles in the offseason, signing with the Houston Rockets.
-- Austin Knoblauch
Western Conference quarterfinals
at San Antonio 91, Lakers 79
at San Antonio 102, Lakers 91
San Antonio 120, at Lakers 89
San Antonio 103, at Lakers 82