It will probably get even worse for the Lakers
When I submitted the topic idea of "Who Has the Brighter Immediate Future Between the Spurs and Lakers" in February, I intended for the focus to be on the next 3-5 years. Little did I know the Lakers would flame out as they did.
As my colleague, Cal Durrett, eloquently put, the Lakers were built to win now while the Spurs have been making moves that should benefit them immensely in the short term. Well, it's safe to say the Lakers did not win now, even with their lofty expectations.
The front office will have many questions to answer this summer, from what they'll do with Westbrook and his massive contract to how they'll re-tool without any draft picks to use in June. Of course, they have the benefit of a big market and prime location to lure players over, but guys also want to win, and they haven't done much of that over the last two seasons. Plus, there's this:
The Lakers' top three scorers this season have an average age of nearly 33, and LeBron James will turn 38 in the first few months of the next NBA season. The fact of the matter is the Lakers gambled on instant gratification and fell flat on their faces. As a result, they're probably going to take a while to get back to being true contenders.
Team cohesion wins once again
I realize the Spurs are likely headed for either a Play-In Tournament loss or a dismantling by the Phoenix Suns, and that's ok. After all, it's widely believed they were never trying to make a run for the postseason in the first place but didn't have a choice once the Lakers decided to implode.
That's why no matter what happens for the rest of the season, I'm already satisfied with what I've seen from the Silver and Black. They've competed every night while stockpiling assets and making trades for the benefit of their future. This June, they'll have three 1st round picks and a 2nd rounder from the Lakers to work with to continue their rebuild.
Meanwhile, in a season when the Lakers were supposed to be contenders, they fell victim to the rule they succumbed to over 20 years ago: substance prevails over style.
Load up on all the All-Stars you possibly can, but it won't amount to anything if you don't play the game the right way or have the necessary teamwork to get the job done.
There's a reason the Spurs, who many predicted to win fewer than 30 games, will at least have a shot to enter the playoffs while the Lakers will be done on Sunday. They've built a culture of working together and winning as a team, as shown by their remarkable track record of being the best passing team in the history of the NBA.
In a season in which they were counted out before they even hit the court, the Spurs defied all odds and put themselves in a position to make some noise. Even if it might not amount to an NBA title, they silenced the Lakers in the process, and that already makes this season a win. Take that, Vegas.