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January 4, 2013
Bad Company
Old, Unsuccessful Teams

by Dan Feldman

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The Los Angeles Lakers entered this season with championship aspirations.

If the season ended today, they wouldn't make the playoffs.

But that might be the least of their problems. As much attention has been paid to why the 2012-13 Lakers are struggling--whether it be their coach, defense or bad luck--Kobe Bryant might have hit on a larger issue when he said, "we're old as s---."

See, the Lakers aren't just old (third-oldest in the league this season). They're also bad (15-16 record).

The Lakers are on pace to become 14 percent of the three percent.

Since the NBA began tracking minutes for the 1951-52 season, there have been 1,274 teams, including 30 this year. Just 42 of them have had an average age, weighted by minutes played, older than 30. Of those, just six have had a losing record:

Here's how small that "old and bad" group is:

In isolation, being old isn't necessarily a huge problem. The Heat and Knicks are the other teams this season with an average age over 30, and they're doing just fine. But being old and bad has been a huge problem for teams in subsequent seasons.

The obvious problem is old teams have less potential than young teams, and therefore, their path to improvement is more difficult. This is especially true of the Lakers, who already have more than $70 million in salary committed for next season.

Common sense also dictates being old and bad is a poor combination, so obviously teams try to avoid the predicament. Therefore, a team allowing itself to become old and bad also indicates poor management (cough, Scott Layden, cough).

Here's what happened to previous teams after their old and bad season(s):

2002 and 2003 New York Knicks

The 2004 Knicks were the only team to make the playoffs after an old and bad season, but they slipped in with a 39-43 record and got swept in the first round. Then, New York missed the playoffs for the next six seasons.

2002 Miami Heat

No old and bad team rebounded quicker than Miami, which went 25-57 the next season then drafted Dwyane Wade and then traded for Shaquille O'Neal en route to an NBA title in 2006.

1992 Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks missed the playoffs the next six seasons.

1991 Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks missed the playoffs the next eight seasons.

The Lakers figure to get only older as 38-year-old Steve Nash passes 22-year-old Darius Morris in minutes played, so getting younger than 30 by adjusting the rotation is unlikely. The only way for the Lakers to avoid this troubling distinction is simply to win more.

Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Dan by clicking here or click here to see Dan's other articles.

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