Los Angeles Lakers

Is there precedent for the roster construction of the 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers are rightfully all in for their 2022 championship pursuit.

Acquiring one of the oldest rosters in recent seasons, the Lakers have added a host of veterans to their squad in the hopes of winning their second ring in three seasons.

The 2021-22 Lakers aren't the first team to take this approach, with the 2014 Brooklyn Nets and 2004 Lakers entering their respective campaigns with similar age profiles and expectations.

Let's take a look back at how it panned out for those two teams before assessing the similarities with the modern day Lakers.

2013-14 Brooklyn Nets

Everyone remembers this squad.

Brooklyn shocked the NBA world by trading for the 37-year-old Kevin Garnett and 36-year-old Paul Pierce and Jason Terry.

The trio joined veterans Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams in what was one of the highest profile squads the league had seen in some time.

Of course, they weren't finished in making a splash, hiring Jason Kidd as head coach.

Given the veteran nature of the roster, the bar was a championship. The Nets would ultimately fail to clear that bar as they were eliminated in five games by LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

The Nets got off to a dreadful start, at one point holding a 10-21 record just as they lost Lopez for the season with a foot injury. They would finish the regular season 44-38, before losing a late lead in Game 5 against Miami to end their season.

Garnett would start every game, but managed just 4.8 points per game in the series, while Pierce managed just 14.0.

The fallout was disastrous, with Kidd traded to head coach the Milwaukee Bucks and Pierce leaving in free agency for the Washington Wizards. Williams and Garnett returned but were clearly well beyond their best and the Nets would be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks.

2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers

When the Lakers pushed in all their chips prior to the 2004 season they likely knew it might be their last run.

Unlike the above example with the Nets, Los Angeles hardly needed to mortgage their future to do so, acquiring Gary Payton and Karl Malone in free agency.

Eliminated in the second round by San Antonio in 2003, the Lakers were hoping to collect one more ring during the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal era.

The Lakers would finish the regular season 56-26, though Malone struggled for much of the season with a nagging knee injury. The 40-year-old would sprain the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during Game 2 of the NBA Finals against Detroit, before hobbling through Game 3 and 4 and missing Game 5 as the Pistons won the Championship.

Legendary coach Phil Jackson would leave just days after the Finals ended while in a league-altering moment, O'Neal was traded to Miami, bringing an end to a Lakers era that claimed three titles for the purple and gold.

As for Malone, he required surgery after the season and would never play again, retiring after a lone season with the Lakers. Payton would head to Boston for one season, before joining the Heat and winning a ring with O'Neal in 2006.

The Lakers failed to win the championship, but many still argue they would have if Malone did not suffer his knee injury.

Similarities with this year's Lakers?

Much like the 2014 Nets and 2004 Lakers, the 2022 Lakers are facing a championship or bust season.

Set to turn 37 in December, LeBron James only has so many chances to lead a franchise to a title. Entering his fourth season with the Lakers, LeBron has been cut down by injury in two of those and in the other season there was a three month shutdown prior to the postseason due to the pandemic.

James has defied the odds for the majority of his career as the true ironman of the league but we don't actually know whether he can withstand a full 82-game schedule plus playoffs.

Along with James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan Rajon Rondo, Kent Bazemore and Wayne Ellington are well into their thirties.

This version of the Lakers feels more like the '04 Lakers than it does the '14 Nets. Yes, the Lakers did trade for Westbrook, but unlike the Nets, the Lakers didn't give up a haul of draft assets, while the majority of the signings were via free agency in a similar fashion to Malone and Payton.

On paper, the Lakers deserve to be the favourites to come out of the Western Conference but as the prior examples show, health will play a big part of the ultimate result. The next question will be whether or not they can avoid the wholesale changes that has followed the all-in approach in the past.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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