This Day in Laker History: January 2nd

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Now with basketball back in action, Laker Nation has decided to continue to take you back through Laker history to recap important games, record-breaking performances and memorable news from the past 64 years of the franchise.

JANUARY 2, 2005

Following the Shaq-Kobe Lakers, the Lakers roster in 2004-05 was a complete shell of itself compared to the previous seven years. Derek Fisher? Gone, replaced by Chucky Atkins. Shaq? In Miami, replaced by Chris Mihm. Heat castoffs Caron Butler, Lamar Odom and Brian Grant were all starters or significant bench players. Heck, players like Jumaine Jones and Tierre Brown were getting significant minutes with the Lakers Replacements squad.

When the Replacement Lakers walked into Staples Center to play the Denver Nuggets on a Sunday night seven years ago, Michael Cooper, who had played 12 seasons with the Lakers during the Showtime era, had assumed the interim head coaching slot for the Nuggets after Jeff Bzdelik’s departure from the club. Cooper had previously won two WNBA titles with the Los Angeles Sparks, and his short-time as an assistant for the Nuggets, along with his coaching acument with the Sparks, had bumped him up quickly to the head coaching spot.

Though the Lakers were playing roster that could have started the 48-year-old Cooper, that didn’t stop them from running to a 16-point lead. While the Nuggets would take the lead down to two with only 2:26 left in the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant would score the Lakers’ next eight points, and with them cement the 99-91 victory. Bryant would finish with 42 points on the night on 14-for-29 shooting, as Bryant would score more than 40 points for his third consecutive game. Cooper, on the other hand, would not be as lucky, as his head coaching career would be short-lived; George Karl, the current coach of the Nuggets, would replace Cooper after a month and a 4-10 coaching record.

Quote of the Night: “We held Kobe in check. We held this team all the way to the end. We had a chance to win.” – Former Nuggets coach and ex-Laker player Michael Cooper, on his team’s defensive performance in a 99-91 loss to the Lakers. Bryant would score 42 points in the victory. - From the LA Times, Jan. 3, 2005

James Cypert is a news and feature writer for When he's not perfecting his ill-advised Kareem-style sky-hook, you can find him on Laker Nation or follow him on Twitter.