As the Lakers walked off the court in Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder last May, it didn’t just feel like the end of the season. It felt like the end of an era.
The Lakers looked slow, tired, and old. They were run out of the gym by a much younger and more athletic Thunder team that was just starting to hit its stride. Nobody escapes Father Time, and in the Lakers' case, that appeared to be the harsh reality that would linger in Los Angeles for a long and uneasy off-season.
However, in the final minutes of the Thunder’s decisive victory, there was a camera shot in the midst of the TNT telecast that would eventually prove to be foreboding not for the Lakers, but rather for the rest of the league.
The camera slowly zoomed in on General Manager Mitch Kupchak, his tall, lanky figure blatantly standing out in a ravenous sea of blue. His arms were crossed, his brows furrowed, his expression appeared to be one of grave concern, or even worse, of acknowledgement of ...