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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Flashback: When 'old' Lakers were young

By Patrick Dorsey

After the Los Angeles Lakers' home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday night, Kobe Bryant -- he of 34 years on this planet -- called the Lakers "an old damn team."

And although some will say you're only as old as you feel, in real-age numbers it's hard to argue with the future Hall of Famer. Just as defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City features a top five (in minutes played per game) aged 24, 24, 23, 29 and 28, the Lakers (15-16) boast a 1 through 5 aged 34, 27, 33, 32 and 38. (Heck, their top three bench players are 32, 30 and 36).

Of course, even the aged once were young. So let's take a photographic look back at that Lakers top five, back when they were just rookies.

Dwight Howard, 27
Dwight Howard with the Orlando Magic in 2004
Orlando Magic, 2004-05: Straight from high school, the top pick was raw on offense (12.0 PPG) but grabbed 10.0 boards per game. He also started all 82 for the 36-46 Magic, but lost the Rookie of the Year award to Emeka Okafor.

Pau Gasol, 32
Pau Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001
Memphis Grizzlies, 2001-02: Gasol's first year in the league aligned with the Grizzlies' first year in Tennessee, and the 21-year-old ex-Spanish league star delivered: 17.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 2.7 assists per game.

Ron Artest/Metta World Peace, 33
Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) of the Chicago Bulls in 1999
Chicago Bulls, 1999-2000: Back before World Peace arrived, the 16th overall pick from St. John's gave the Bulls three seasons, including a 12.0-point, 4.3-rebound, 1.7-steal rookie campaign.

Steve Nash, 38
Steve Nash with the Phoenix Suns in 1996
Phoenix Suns, 1996-97: This guy became a star? You couldn't tell from the 15th overall pick's first year in the Valley, where he averaged just 3.2 points and 2.1 assists (in 10.5 minutes). But that's why he's Steve Nash ...

Kobe Bryant, 34
Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996
Los Angeles Lakers, 1996-97: Days ago Bryant said this is his best season "in a while." It's certainly better than Year 1, in which the high school draftee (13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets) started just six games and played just 15.5 minutes per, averaging 7.6 points on 41.7 percent shooting (albeit on a 56-win team).