With a loss on Tuesday night and a win for the Miami Heat over the Orlando Magic, the Washington Wizards would be eliminated from the playoffs. If it doesn't happen then, it will likely happen soon, sometime this week for sure.
That will put a proverbial fork in their season, one that has taken all sorts of disappointing and unexpected turns along the way. Their opponent on Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers, are one of the few teams this season that can truly relate.
The Lakers have already been eliminated from playoff contention despite having a slightly better record (32-41) than Washington (30-44). That is due to them being in the Western Conference, which was a lot less forgiving than the East.
Perhaps no team had a better summer last offseason than L.A. as they signed LeBron James in free agency, a franchise-altering move that was supposed to pay immediate dividends. But due to a poorly constructed roster around him and various injuries, they fell way short of expectations.
While the Wizards have been disappointing this season, the Lakers have underwhelmed while dealing with more attention and pressure. This is the first time in James' career he has missed the playoffs and his arrival was supposed to start the rebirth of one of the most successful franchises in sports.
The Wizards and Lakers now meet with only two weeks remaining in the regular season as shells of their original, preseason forms. Washington is without John Wall and Dwight Howard due to injury. They now hand heavy minutes to guys who weren't in their initial plans like Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker.
The Lakers still have James in the lineup as he plays out the final stretch of the season, but they lost Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball due to injuries. They rely heavily on Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee, a group that makes no more sense now than it did when they put it together.
The Wizards and Lakers will likely be in a similar range when it comes to draft lottery odds. The Wizards are currently seventh from the bottom of the league, while the Lakers are 10th.
And in a few short months when free agency and trades are made, both teams will likely undergo roster overhauls that are rivaled by few. James desperately needs help from other stars while the Wizards will aim to step forward despite dealing with the obstacle of Wall's injury and contract.
Neither team envisioned they would be here at this point. Now, they meet for the final time this season in Los Angeles, having taken in some ways a parallel path to get here.
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