On November 4, 1948, the Minneapolis Lakers beat the Baltimore Bullets 84-72, winning their first game in the BAA. They went on to win the title that year, beating the Washington Capitols and did the same the next year in the NBA, beating the Syracuse Nationals. Even then, years before their move to Los Angeles, before the 24-second shot clock, before anybody cared about the sport of basketball and before the Los Angeles Lakers were a brand synonymous with success and stardom, they were winning.
Between November 4, 1948 and April 28, 2013, the Lakers missed the playoffs just five times. In those 65 years, they won 16 titles and were led by giants, both literally and figuratively. 23 Hall of Famers played for the team, many of them identified by just one name. Magic, Kareem, Kobe, Shaq, Wilt, Elgin. Even the guy who became the logo of the NBA, Jerry West, donned purple and gold. Their coaches doubled as a laundry list of the greatest; John Kundla, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, even Rudy Tomjanovich spent a year on the bench, however unsuccessful.
But after that fateful day in April of 2013, the day the Lakers were unceremoniously swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Spurs, putting the cap on a miserable season of inner turmoil, injuries and failed championship aspirations, the franchise has fallen off the mountaintop and faceplanted onto the rocks below.
Since then, the Lakers have endured their three worst seasons since moving to Los Angeles, each one worse than the last. Even so, we’ve been assured by the front office that help is coming. The Lakers have gone after Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency to try and get that help and each time they’ve been denied, the latter in embarrassing fashion. Instead of improving and trying to get back into the playoff race, the Lakers spent the past season parading a broken star through the league and letting him do whatever he wanted as if it was still his prime. Even if they were vindicated by a 60-point final game, keeping their top-3 protected pick and hopefully not damaging the psyche of D’Angelo Russell too much, the assumption was that, at bare minimum, the Lakers would try to improve again this summer. Even if there was no chance at all of signing Kevin Durant or Al Horford, the assumption was that there would at least be a meeting at which the front office would not further embarrass itself and perhaps set the stage for next season’s free agency bonanza.
Instead, as free agency arrived, the Lakers reached out to Timofey Mozgov. Exactly what Mozgov does for the Lakers outside of protect the rim, I have absolutely no idea. He was relegated to the bench during Cleveland’s championship run after failing to provide the same rebounding and defensive production he did the year before, but suddenly the Lakers have decided he’s worth $64 million over 4 years. They could not have come up with a worse deal had they spun a wheel to determine who to sign.
Even in a new cap environment, this deal is nonsensical. It’s not hard to justify previously unthinkable signings such as giving Luol Deng $72 million over 4 years or Jordan Clarkson $50 million over the same time period. Both are good signings at solid price tags. But Timofey Mozgov isn’t a proven veteran or a young kid with good aspirations for the future. He spent last season as the fourth center on a team with four capable centers, riding the bench throughout the postseason.
Perhaps Luke Walton envisions Mozgov as a poor man’s version of Andrew Bogut, that is if Bogut couldn’t finish a pick and roll, make a pass, play good defense or get a rebound. You know, all of the useful things Andrew Bogut does. More likely, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak are both desperate to save their jobs by fulfilling a mandate to contend and somehow came to the conclusion that Timofey Mozgov would help get the Lakers to contend this season.
In any case, the real meaning of the Mozgov signing is that the shine has officially been rubbed off of the logo. Even if we knew this already, the signing makes it official. The Lakers aren’t a destination, they aren’t a franchise recognized globally as champions and they certainly are no longer synonymous with success and stardom. And yes, it’s possible to get it all back but it isn’t easy. Just ask the Knicks, who have spent the bulk of the century trying to get it all back after being contenders at minimum for most of their history.
Their fans, having been battered by years of being a laughingstock, by Isiah, Eddy Curry, Kurt Rambis and every miserable stop in between, will tell you that it isn’t all that easy to get it back. The Lakers are well down the road of incompetence and if they don’t turn around, it could be a while before they can get back to the top of that mountain.
All stats are from basketball-reference.com or NBA.com unless otherwise noted
 Exactly how Mozgov helps the Lakers contend this year, I still have no idea but I assume they didn’t sign him for the back end of that contract.