The final curtain is about to fall on the 2016-17 season for the Los Angeles Lakers. It started with the hiring of a promising young head coach but ended with a whole new front office, which speaks volumes about what happened in between.
There were highs and lows during the season, but unfortunately, there were far more of the latter than the former. The young players all had big individual moments but were maddeningly inconsistent and never came together as a group on the court. The net result was that, for the fourth year in a row, the Lakers were one of the league’s worst teams and missed the playoffs.
Despite a modest winning streak in April, the team heads into an uncertain offseason which could result in a very different roster by the start of next season. Off the court, two long-simmering issues have been settled which should bring much-needed stability going forward.
Jeanie Buss is now firmly in charge of the franchise, having defeated an attempted coup by two of her siblings who made an ill-fated attempt to oust her. In addition, speculation about the tenure of Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak has finally been resolved, with basketball operations now entrusted to the new charismatic duo of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka.
Here are the best and worst moments from the 2016-17 season for the purple and gold.
Best: October 26, 2016: Lakers defeat Houston Rockets 120- 114
The Rockets would eventually go on to become a title contender. Mike D’Antoni is the favorite to win Coach of the Year and James Harden is one of the favorites to win MVP. But in the Lakers first game of the season, the purple and gold surprised everyone by playing aggressively and with skill and beating the Rockets at Staples Center.
Jordan Clarkson led the way with 25 points.
Best: November 4, 2016: Lakers defeat Golden State Warriors 117-97
The Golden State Warriors set numerous records last season and made a second straight appearance in the NBA Finals. If that wasn’t enough, they shocked the basketball world over the summer by signing free agent Kevin Durant, which was thought to make them invincible.
Yet, in this early season showdown, the Lakers led wire-to-wire in this victory as Julius Randle dominated with 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Larry Nance Jr. brought the house down with a massive dunk over David West.
Best: November 30, 2016: Lakers defeat Chicago Bulls 96-90
The Lakers finished November with a victory over Dwyane Wade and the Chicago Bulls. This left the team with a record of 10-10 to start the season, which made fans and the media alike wonder if Luke Walton really was a magician.
The Lakers were led in this game by Lou Williams with 18 points and five assists and by Julius Randle who grabbed 20 rebounds.
Worst: December 2, 2016: Lakers lose to Toronto Raptors 113-80
When the calendar turned to December, things fell apart for the Lakers, starting with this 33 point blow-out loss to the Raptors. It was the beginning of an eight game losing streak which dashed the hopes of fans who had started to believe they could make the playoffs after a strong start to the season. Brandon Ingram scored a then-career high 17 points in this contest.
Best: December 25, 2016: Lakers defeat Los Angeles Clippers 111-102
After dominating the Clippers for years, the shoe is now on the other foot as the Lakers have been thoroughly humiliated by Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and company the past five seasons. After a miserable December, there was little hope the Lakers could win this contest but they did, which provided a momentary respite from a season that was going south.
Seven players scored in double-figures, led by Nick Young and Timofey Mozgov’s 19 points. Luol Deng meanwhile, had one of his best games of the year, with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Worst: January 22, 2017: Lakers lose to Dallas Mavericks 122-73
This was the lowest point in the season for the Lakers, if not the lowest point in team history. The 49 point loss was the biggest margin of defeat ever for the once-proud franchise, and it became a symbol of just how far the mighty had fallen.
The team thoroughly embarrassed itself in this game, losing without really putting up any kind of fight. Plus, this was the Dallas Mavericks, which at that point in the season were one of the league’s worst teams.
Best: February 6, 2017: Lakers defeat New York Knicks 121-107
It is always a big game when the Lakers square off with the New York Knicks, even if both teams have fallen on hard times. With former Lakers coach and present Knicks’ president Phil Jackson watching from the stands, and the season going nowhere for Los Angeles, the Lakers were somehow able to rise to the occasion and come away with a victory.
Lou Williams again led the way 22 points while rookie Brandon Ingram, who was moved into the starting lineup permanently this game, finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Worst: February 15, 2017: Lakers lose to Phoenix Suns 137-101
The Suns were not a good team this season but in this contest they literally blew the Lakers out of the arena as the team from Los Angeles played with no energy or heart and had seemingly already checked out for the All-Star break.
At the time, this seemed like another low point in the season. It was their second consecutive loss in what would become yet another eight game losing streak.
Worst: March 7, 2017: Lakers lose to Dallas Mavericks 122-111
There was nothing especially significant about this game except it was the team’s fourth straight defeat to the Mavericks this season. Dallas embarrassed the Lakers this year, as none of the games was even close and the Lakers were awful in all of them.
They made the Mavericks look like the Golden State Warriors in each of the losses, including this one late in the year. Jordan Clarkson led the team with 22 points and Julius Randle had 18 rebounds and 10 assists.
Worst: March 15, 2017: Lakers lose to Houston Rockets 139-101
This blowout, a 38-point loss to Houston, was only noteworthy as a reminder of just how far the team had declined since their victory over the Rockets in the first game back in October. The Rockets have surged since then while the Lakers imploded. By this point, a season that had started with such hope had dissolved into chaos and disappointment.
Best: March 24, 2017: Lakers defeat Minnesota Timberwolves 130-119
With the Lakers in a lengthy freefall and their fans pleading with the team to lose every game to keep pace with the Suns, the Lakers played an energetic game against the Timberwolves and came away with a rare overtime win.
It is always fun to watch the young core compete head to head with the budding young superstars on Minnesota, and this contest did not disappoint. The Lakers were led by a career high 35 points from Jordan Clarkson and a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds from Julius Randle.