LOS ANGELES • Barring an unforeseen resurrection from a fractured group who are 51/2 games from the eighth and final play-off berth in the West, the Los Angeles Lakers will not end their six-year post-season absence - the longest drought in the team's history.
That is the prospect LeBron James and Co. are facing with 18 games to go after the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the hosts 113-105 at the Staples Centre on Monday night for their third straight National Basketball Association win.
The Lakers, who have now lost for the ninth time in their past 12 games, were paced by 27 points from James, while the visitors were led by Danilo Gallinari (23 points).
According to basketball-reference.com, the Lakers have only a 1.3 per cent chance of reaching the play-offs, while they also have the league's eighth-toughest remaining schedule as per tankathon.com.
But James, who has not missed out on the post-season since his second season in the league in 2005, is not prepared to rest as he wants to "continue to be a professional".
He told ESPN post-game: "That would take a lot of convincing from Luke (Lakers coach Walton). Unless I'm hurt, I'm not sitting out games. For me personally, I can speak for myself... be as great as you can be every single night, no matter the circumstances.
"We're in a win-or-loss league and that's what it's all about. We've had positive. We've had a lot of negative... but, at the end of the day, we're in a result league.
"Results are how many wins you can accumulate throughout the course of the season, so you take the good with the bad and you just keep pushing."
However, the 15-time All-Star, whose 17-game absence after suffering a groin injury on Christmas Day coincided with the team's slump from fourth to 10th in the West, conceded there was a possibility the Lakers hierarchy could keep him wrapped in cotton wool to improve their chances in the draft lottery.
"That conversation hasn't occurred, but I'm sure it can happen soon," James told ESPN. "You kind of look at the rest of the games, and look at the percentages of what's going on there in the future, and see what makes more sense for not only me, but the team itself."
While the Lakers ponder pulling out of the deep malaise, one celebrity fan has had enough of the team's poor performances and is now selling his box seats for "five dollars".
In an Instagram video rant which went viral, rapper Snoop Dogg blasted: "It's terrible watching my Lakers play. Somebody got to go. Matter of fact, a lot of players have got to go. Starting with the coach. This ain't going to work.
"This is not the L.A. way. Ship all the players out… Sick of this going to act like it's going to be all right, it's going to be cool, they are going to figure it out, they are going to grow.
"Get LeBron some help, because these goofballs ain't going to do anything. I got a booth for the next two, three years. This year, y'all can have it."
REUTERS, NY TIMES