Note: This is an update from December's edition of "GM for a day."
It's kind of cliché in sports writing to say that things can change quickly, and certainly there are countless examples of that phenomenon coming into play. Sometimes, as it is with the current edition of the Los Angeles Lakers, things can hardly change fast enough.
Two months ago, we slipped on the proverbial shoes of Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and sketched an initial plan to return the Lakers to prominence. The short-term outlook was bleak and still is, but since then Kupchak has nudged one of the NBA's flagship franchises toward its next chapter. Well, the first draft of one, anyway. With the trade deadline behind us, let's freshen up our outline for the rebuilding project under way in L.A.
Where do the Lakers reside on the arc of contention?
In June, the Lakers will be four years removed from their previous title, in 2010. After the Dwight Howard hiccup last season, the Lakers retain the same foundation of that title team, at least in terms of their payroll structure. Bryant and Pau Gasol were the Lakers' highest-paid players then; they are L.A.'s highest-paid players now. With Bryant already signed for two more years beyond this one, the Lakers threaten to become the rare championship team that makes it all the way over to the wrong side of the arc as a squad that just couldn't let go of the glory days.
It is past time for a reset, but with the ink barely dry on Bryant's contract extension, a truly clean slate can't happen until 2016-17. Meanwhile, with their top veterans sidelined with injuries, this Lakers club is trotting out a lineup that wouldn't look out of place on an expansion team. Los Angeles is on pace to win 27 games -- a pace that is slowing with each loss -- and that would represent the franchise's lowest win total since it moved to the West Coast in 1960. And that includes strike-shortened seasons.