2004-05 Flashback: The Last Los Angeles Lakers Losing Season


The Los Angeles Lakers will finish the 2013-14 NBA season with a losing record. For the franchise with the second-most championships in league history — 16 to the Boston Celtics' 17 — this is a rarity. How rare? It will be just the second time in past 20 seasons (including this season) that the Lakers have finished below .500.

The last time this happened was the 2004-05 season. That was the year following Los Angeles falling to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals, after which Kobe Bryant threw down an ultimatum to the organization: Either Shaq goes or I go.

The Lakers complied, choosing to go with the younger Bryant, ultimately trading O'Neal to the Miami Heat in exchange for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round pick. And with Shaq went coach Phil Jackson, who retired and was replaced with former Houston Rockets championship-winning coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

There was reason to be optimistic in Los Angeles, as Odom, Butler and Grant had all played very well together in Miami. But it was clear the Heat were getting the prize, and Shaq helped Miami to its first NBA title with the help of Dwyane Wade (and some questionable refereeing, right Mavs fans?).

Meanwhile, the Lakers had no such luck. In Year 1 A.S. (After Shaq), L.A. had its worst season in more than a decade, finishing 14 games under .500 at 34-48. Looking back at the roster, it's not hard to figure out why.


The Starters

PG: Chucky Atkins — Chucky Atkins started all 82 games at point guard for this team. I repeat: Chucky Atkins started all 82 games at point guard. Granted, the Lakers haven't had star power at the point since the days of Magic, but — and no disrespect to Atkins — Chucky Atkins should have never started 82 games in a season for anyone. (Shockingly, he accomplished that same feat his rookie season in Orlando and started 81 games in his second season, which was his first in Detroit). The man averaged 3.4 assists a game for his career, and in '04-'05, he managed to put up 4.4 assists per game — the second highest average in his career. He also shot just 42.6% from the floor. That explains a lot.

SG: Kobe Bryant — Kobe had a typical Kobe season, averaging 27.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6 assists and 1.3 steals per game, but he couldn't do everything on his own. However, he thought he could do everything on his own, which is partly why he divorced himself of Shaq, and it resulted in more than 20 shots a game and just a 43.3% mark from the field. Kobe was trying to prove he didn't need Shaq to be great — and he didn't. But the Lakers did. Kobe learned that the hard way.

SF: Caron Butler — Butler was in just his third season, and he put up his best numbers up until that point in his career, complimenting Bryant with 15.5 points a game. But he wasn't quite the force he'd become in Washington and had to learn his way playing with a Kobe Bryant who was doing plenty of ball-hogging. Butler wasn't the problem with this team, but he wasn't quite an all-star caliber player yet either.

PF: Lamar Odom — Always an enigma dating all the way back to his college days, Odom came into his own in Miami and continued to establish himself in L.A. Truthfully, heading to the Lakers was the best move for Odom, a naturally passive player who prefers to facilitate than to score. This was the start of Odom's dominant portion of his career, averaging a double-double (15.2 points, 10.2 rebounds) and meshing well with Bryant. Odom turned out to be an integral part of the next Lakers championship team.

C: Chris Mihm — Chris Mihm started 75 games that season. He started just 61 more games in his entire career. I don't think it's a coincidence that his career-high in starts coincided with a dreadful season for the Lakers.

The Bench

Jumaine Jones: Jumaine Jones' highlight came four years earlier, when he came out of nowhere to become a key bench piece for the 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers that lost to Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Somehow, he parlayed that into the Lakers' 6th man that season. Jumaine Jones was much closer to an 8th-10th man than a 6th man.

Devean George: Basically Jumaine Jones, except with some big shots in the postseason for the previous L.A. squads. (Also, ESPN did a hilarious feature on him called the 5th Beatle. Hilarious.)

Brian Grant: Once an all-star and rebounding machine, Grant was on his last legs, playing just 16.5 inconsequential minutes a game.

Brian Cook: The three-point specialist in a power forward's body, Brian Cook was the type of player you loathe as a short man who grew up wishing he was tall. He took nearly three threes a game in just 15 minutes a night. I never liked Brian Cook if you couldn't tell.

Tierre Brown: Who? Apparently Tierre Brown was a 6'2" backup guard. I had no idea he even existed, which makes it perfectly reasonable that he played 14 minutes a night in 76 games for the Lakers that season, contributing practically nothing.

Luke Walton: In just his second season, Walton was biding his time on the bench before getting a chance to really contribute later in his career.

Sasha Vujacic: "The Machine" was not born yet, as the overconfident shooter from Slovenia was just a rookie, but I assume he was just as insufferable as a bench warmer as he was when he got real P.T.

Stanislav Medvedenko: I'll let Stephen A. Smith take it on this one …

Vlade Divac: Listen, I love Vlade Divac. I've always loved Vlade Divac. I will always love Vlade Divac. He was an excellent player for a long time. But holy shit, Vlade was like 98 years old by the 2004-05 season. OK, he was born in 1968 so that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point. He did only suit up for 15 games, however.

Kareem Rush: I always like Kareem Rush too, both at Missouri and during some of his nice stints in the NBA. But boy, in just his second season, Rush was not ready for the NBA, evident by his just 91 minutes played in 14 games before moving on the Charlotte.

Tony Bobbitt: You are forgiven if you forgot Tony Bobbitt even existed, since his only two NBA games took place for the Lakers in the '04-'05 season. He was pretty decent in college at Cincy though.

While this season's iteration of the Los Angeles Lakers is on pace for a worse record than that 2004-05 squad, it's hard to believe the roster as a whole will look worse than the last L.A. team to finish with a losing record. Even minus Kobe and Steve Nash, this year's team still has recognizable names like Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman and Nick Young, if nothing else. Then again, Nick Young and Jodie Meeks are second and third, respectively, in scoring behind Gasol, which is never a good thing. And Ryan Kelly actually gets playing time. So maybe it will look just as bad a decade from now.

Revel in it while you can, NBA fans — because if history has taught us anything, it's that the Lakers won't be down for long.

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