Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers picked Sasha Vujacic late in the first round of 2005.
Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images
2005 DRAFT SELECTIONS
No. 10, No. 37 (from N.Y. via Atl. and Cha.), No. 39
CURRENT FREE AGENTS
Tierre Brown (unrestricted)
Devean George (player option)
Brian Grant (player has right to terminate contract)
Luke Walton (restricted)
RECENT DRAFT SELECTIONS
2004: 27. Sasha Vujacic, Italy
56. Marcus Douthit, Providence
2003: 24. Brian Cook, Illinois
32. Luke Walton, Arizona
2002: 27. Chris Jefferies, Fresno State
2000: 29. Mark Madsen, Stanford
By Bill Evans

When the 2004-05 season began: Twenty-seven other teams might have been envious of the Lakers trip to the Finals in 2004, but the series against the Pistons was such a disaster for the Lakers that Phil Jackson walked away, Karl Malone retired, Gary Payton and Shaquille O'Neal were traded to the opposite coast, leaving the enigmatic Kobe Bryant to rule the roost.

What happened? Reporters are never at a loss for storylines on the Lakers beat, and the 2004-05 season was no exception. There was the installation of Rudy Tomjanovich as head coach after a recruitment period in which the Lakers reached out to Mike Krzyzewski and others. Tomjanovich brought a solid resume, but lacked a clean bill of health. He resigned in early February, citing health concerns. Frank Hamblen coached the team for the remainder of the season.

Bryant, who finally had the marquee to himself, displayed his usual array of highlights but lacked the ability to carry the team on his shoulders. He was second in the NBA in scoring (27.2 ppg), but averaged only 23.9 in final month as his team fell out of the playoff race.

Like everything in Los Angeles, even their decline from contention was grand. The Lakers lost 19 of their final 21 games, 10 by double-digit margins, to finish 34-48. Not even C-list celebrities could stomach watching the team drop eight of its final nine games at Staples Center.

Caron Butler (15.5 ppg) and Lamar Odom (15.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg), both acquired in the O'Neal trade, provided the beginning of a good, young nucleus to surround Bryant. Neither, though, could compensate for the loss the dominant game-changing Golitah who led the Lakers to three titles but was deemed expendable by Jerry Buss.

What now? The Lakers ‘earned' their highest placement in the lottery since 1994. They selected Eddie Jones that year, one of many recent successes with the No. 10 overall pick (Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Jason Terry).

Point guards and post players will be on the menu when the Lakers place their order. Chucky Atkins appeared in all 82 games for Los Angeles, but isn't a prototype ‘1'. In the post, Chris Mihm delivered beyond the expectations of most, but Brian Grant and Vlade Divac were non-factors, so depth up front is crucial.

Selecting the right players might be easier if the Lakers know by draft day who will be coaching them.