LOS ANGELES • The Lakers were eliminated from National Basketball Association play-off contention after their 111-106 loss to Brooklyn Nets on Friday.
The loss ended LeBron James’ streak of 13 consecutive play-offs with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, during which he had played in eight straight NBA Finals.
“It is a tough season for all of us,” James said. “It is not what we signed up for. Throughout the year things happen, suspensions, injuries.
“You don’t even try to wrap your head around it. Just keep pushing see how you can get better. The play-offs is never a promise. You got to come out and do the work.”
What follows is a breakdown of how things fell apart – in six stages.
1. THE SHORTEST OF HONEYMOONS
After the Lakers signed James last July, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka – the Lakers’ nascent front-office power duo – signed a slew of non-shooters who prompted instant doubts.
JaVale McGee initially exceeded expectations, but Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Beasley proved as ineffective as feared.
2. AN INSTANT HOT SEAT
After five losses in their first eight games, Johnson gave coach Luke Walton a pointed lecture about the Lakers’ sluggish start, which was promptly leaked to the media.
It made Johnson look impatient and ramped up the pressure on everyone in the locker room.
3. (ONLY A SOMEWHAT) MERRY CHRISTMAS
The Lakers beat two-time defending champions Golden State Warriors 127-101 on Christmas Day to nudge their record to 20-14, but James strained his left groin.
The Lakers went 6-11 without him and can rightly point to suddenly losing their star as the biggest blow to the team’s play-off hopes.
4. INJURIES GALORE
They were 6-15 in January, when Lonzo Ball suffered a serious ankle injury, while Tyson Chandler is dealing with a neck ailment.
Josh Hart has been plagued by tendinitis in his left knee for months, and Brandon Ingramwas ruled out for the rest of the season recently with deep venous thrombosis.
5. THE ANTHONY DAVIS FIASCO
After the Lakers made unsuccessful trade runs at Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, and was known to try for New Orleans forward Anthony Davis – which meant Ingram, Ball, Hart and Kyle Kuzma were destined to hear their names in trade speculation. A stream of leaked offers thereafter irreparably fractured the locker room.
6. THE FINAL COLLAPSE
The season effectively ended on March 2 when the Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns, the fifth team with sub-.400 winning percentages the Lakers had lost to. Ball and Ingram were held out of the Lakers’ remaining games, and James’ minutes were reduced.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES