The Lakers, meanwhile, were in danger of replacing the Clippers as the "other" team in L.A.

They finished nine games behind San Antonio in the Western Conference and — holy Michael Olowokandi — one game ahead of the team long known as the Paper Clips.

In the playoffs, the Lakers’ situation got worse.

They needed seven games to beat Denver in the first round and lasted only five games against Oklahoma City in the second round.

It was the second straight year Kobe & Co. didn’t come close to reaching the conference finals.

Suddenly, the Lakers looked like the Bakersfield Jam. jordans on saleThey were in danger of falling so far behind Miami (and others) in the NBA pecking order that some wondered whether L.A. — with all its money and all its free-agent recruiting advantages — could keep pace.

Fast-forward to today.

With the start of the 2012-13 season only hours away, the Lakers are just fine, thank-you, after a face-lift that would make any aging Hollywood movie star proud. In rapid-fire succession, the Lakers added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to their roster.

 


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