LOS ANGELES • The Los Angeles Lakers lost their season to injuries and general ineptitude weeks ago, and all that remains for them now are 12 more regular-season games and a play-off-free finish.
It turns out there is still plenty of room for minor calamities along the way, which they proved at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
In a sleepy matinee devoid of long-term consequences, their 124-123 National Basketball Association loss to the New York Knicks, was, in some ways, a symbol for all that has gone wrong for them - and for LeBron James, 34, in particular.
Shorn of a bunch of injured players, the Lakers crumbled against the worst team in the league, and the forward, for all his ability, was more problem than solution.
For the Knicks, who have been bound for the NBA draft lottery since training camp, it was a rare chance to celebrate.
For the visitors, who had seemingly hit rock-bottom when they lost to the Phoenix Suns two weeks ago, it was another opportunity to dig a little deeper.
"We got real stagnant," admitted Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.
James' appearances at the Garden are usually big deals. He likes the lights, the stage, the grandeur, the history, but Sunday's game was an indication, perhaps, that he has lost some of his lustre this season despite a game-high 33 points.
His late-game struggles against the Knicks were emblematic of a season gone awry, shooting four of 15 from the field in the fourth quarter and missing his final four field-goal attempts.
This season has been a sad anomaly for James, who missed a large chunk of time (17 games) with a groin injury and then did little to resuscitate things once he returned.
His streak of 13 straight play-off appearances and eight straight trips to the NBA Finals will soon come to an end, with his team 91/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the Western Conference's eighth and final play-off spot.
No one expected him to haul the Lakers (31-39) to the top - the roster was poorly constructed from the start - but the level of dysfunction has been fairly shocking.
And the 15-time All-Star is already banking on the off-season.
"There are a lot of great free agents this summer," he said. "Not going to name any names, because every time I say something, or our organisation says something about a specific person, we get in trouble. But we have an opportunity to get better."