L.A. lost to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night to drop to 15-16. It was the fifth straight time the Lakers failed to win a game that would have put them above .500.
Upon the return of Pau Gasol and Steve Nash from injuries, Los Angeles won a season-high five contests in a row. Since their Christmas Day win over the New York Knicks, L.A. has lost two of its last three.
Kobe Bryant was visibly upset after the Lakers most recent loss. When asked about the team’s apparent lack of energy, the 34-year-old blamed the age of his teammates.
"We're old as s---," Bryant told reporters. "What do you want? We just got to figure out how to play when we don't have that energy. We got to change things up a little bit defensively. We got to figure out what we want to do offensively, figure out what we want to do on nights when we don't have those legs or have that energy."
Bryant wasn’t wrong when he called the Lakers “old.” With an average age of over 28, L.A. has the fourth-oldest roster in the NBA.
Through 31 games, the Lakers have yet to figure out how to win on a consistent basis, despite the lack of energy. Is L.A. too old to compete for a title?
It certainly seems that L.A.’s age has been a big reason for its struggles this year. Defensively, they have struggled to keep up with quick teams, especially those that start young players like the 76ers. In transition, Los Angeles might be the worst defensive team in the league.
Despite their sluggish play, Metta World Peace said the team shouldn’t be affected by the older age of some players.
"That's no excuse, the Knicks are playing great, so that's no excuse," World Peace said. "You can't use it as an excuse for us. Thank you. Thanks for trying."
The Knicks have the oldest team in NBA history, after acquiring the likes of Rasheed Wallace, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas in the offseason. Still, New York is off to one of the best starts the franchise has ever seen, winning 21 of its first 31 games.
Having older players hasn’t seemed to affect the rest of the league. The Knicks, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers are the three oldest teams in basketball, all of whom are considered to be title contenders. The Heat have the best record in the East, and the Clippers are coming off a 17-game winning streak.
Right behind the Lakers in average age are the Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and San Antonio Spurs. All three of those teams would be in the playoffs, if the season ended on New Year’s Day.
Unlike most of the teams at the top of the NBA, however, almost all of the Lakers key players are past their prime.
Bryant leads the league in scoring, but defensively he’s a step slower than he once was. In their 12th and 14th seasons, respectively, Pau Gasol and World Peace are no longer at the height of their careers. Steve Nash is still one of the league’s better point guards, but he’s a year away from his 40th birthday.
Dwight Howard is only 27, but he hasn’t been playing like someone in the prime of their career. He’s been hampered by the back surgery that he underwent in April, and hasn’t played with the explosiveness that won him three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Teams like the Knicks, Heat and Clippers rely on players who are still in their prime. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are at the top of their games. LeBron James is the best player in basketball. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have an average age of 25.
There have been a number of reasons for the Lakers struggles this season. When Steve Blake and Nash went down with injuries, the team was left without a quality option at point guard. Pau Gasol has been hurt, as well, and had trouble adjusting to Mike D’Antoni’s system.
At one game under .500, though, it’s hard to argue that the Lakers age hasn’t played a large role in the team’s inability to win games.