October 26 – The Lakers' regular season began with a home game versus the Houston Rockets. The previous year's players received their championship rings and the team raised their 16th championship banner into the Staples Center rafters.
Entering the offseason, Derek Fisher, Adam Morrison, D. J. Mbenga and Josh Powell were all unrestricted free agents.Jordan Farmar was a restricted free agent, but the Lakers didn't extend a qualifying offer to him, also making him an unrestricted free agent.Shannon Brown exercised the player option on his contract and opted out of the remaining year of his contract that would have paid him $2.15 million. Fisher was the Lakers' main priority to re-sign in the offseason, but there was disagreement over the amount of the contract's worth, with both sides arguing between 2.5 and 5 million dollars per season. Fisher eventually agreed to a three-year contract worth $10.5 million with a player option on the final year.
On July 2, the Lakers agreed to terms with Los Angeles Clippers free agent Steve Blake on a four-year contract worth $16 million using most of the team's mid-level exception. The Lakers officially signed Blake to a four-year contract on July 8. On July 22, the Lakers signed free agent forward Matt Barnes to a two-year deal worth $3.6 million (with a player option on the second year) and center Theo Ratliff to a one-year deal worth $1.35 million. On August 5, Shannon Brown's agent announced that the Lakers will resign Brown to a two-year deal worth $4.6 million. Brown turned down more lucrative offers from the Knicks and Hornets and has a player option on his second year.
Backup point guard Jordan Farmar left the Lakers, indicating his desire to be a starter and signed with the New Jersey Nets. Backup power forward Josh Powell left the team and signed with the Atlanta Hawks. D. J. Mbenga and Adam Morrison signed with the New Orleans Hornets and Washington Wizards, respectively. The Lakers also signed both of their second-round draft picks Devin Ebanks (on August 13) and Derrick Caracter (on August 14) to non-guaranteed two-year deals. Ebanks earned the minimum rookie salary of $473,604. As he would stay with the Lakers, his second year salary was $736,420. Caracter agreed to a two-year, $1.1 million deal that was partially guaranteed. Caracter earned $473,604 that season. On April 13 the Lakers signed Trey Johnson due to injuries on the roster.
Head coach Phil Jackson also agreed to a one-year deal after considering retiring. After Jackson's deal, the Lakers were able to quickly reach agreements with the rest of the coaching staff. Longtime assistants Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons are returning and special assistant Chuck Person has officially been added to the staff.
In September, the Lakers signed Drew Naymick, Anthony Roberson, Trey Johnson, and Russell Hicks to the training camp squad, bringing their the total number of players to 18. By the start of the season, the Lakers can have at the most 15 players. The Lakers eventually released all four players in October, bring their roster to 14 players.
The Lakers started the season at home versus the Houston Rockets. Last year's players and staff received their 2010 NBA Championship rings and the Lakers raised their 16th championship banner in the Staples Center rafters. With Andrew Bynum missing the season opener, Pau Gasol moved from starting power forward to center and Lamar Odom moved from backup forward to starting power forward. The starting lineup to begin the season was:
The Lakers started by winning their first four games while leading the NBA in scoring (113.8), 3-point shooting (46.8%) and offensive rebounds. They would go on to win their first eight games before losing back to back games in November. During their first 14 games, notable performances have included Kobe Bryant recording a triple double in a November 3 win against the Sacramento Kings.Matt Barnes and Pau Gasol became the only players besides Charles Barkley to record 20 points, five rebounds and five assists without missing on at least five shots from the field and the free throw line. They accomplished this feat two days apart on November 19 and 21, respectively, winning both games.
Several reasons have been given for the Lakers' early success including improved play by Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and a better bench. The Lakers also have a light schedule during the early part of the season, playing most games at home while only three of the first 14 teams they've played have had winning records. This has also allowed Bryant to play a reduced role and stay fresher. The Lakers managed to jump out to a 13–2 start before losing their final three games of November. The Lakers extended their losing streak to four before beating the Sacramento Kings 113–80 on December 3. The Lakers started a seven game December road trip by beating the Los Angeles Clippers 87–86 after Derek Fisher made the game winning layup as time expired. During the road trip they visited President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. for the second time in 2010. Bynum played his first game of the season coming of the bench against the Washington Wizards on December 14 after missing the first 24 games of the season. On December 15, the Lakers were involved in a three-way trade that sent Sasha Vujačić and a protected (No.1-No.18) 2011 first round draft pick to the New Jersey Nets in return for Joe Smith and the Nets' second round picks they acquired from the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls, respectively. The Lakers will also receive the draft rights to Sergei Lishouk from the Houston Rockets, as well as a trade exception.
The Lakers meeting with President Barack Obama following their 2010 NBA championship
The Lakers finished their road trip 6–1, before losing at home 98–79 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Their next game was on Christmas Day against the Miami Heat, a home game they lost by 16 points. In their next game they fell to the San Antonio Spurs losing 97–82 marking their third straight loss, with all three losses by 15 or more points. The next day the Lakers bounced back with a 103–88 road win against the New Orleans Hornets behind Lamar Odom's 24 points. On January 7 against the New Orleans Hornets, Matt Barnes tore the lateral meniscus on his right knee and is expected to be out for eight weeks. On January 11, the Lakers beat the Cleveland Cavaliers by 55 points, the third largest margin of victory in franchise history. This was part of a seven-game winning streak that was snapped in a "road" game versus the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers final seven games before the All-Star Game were on the road while the Grammys were taking place at Staples Center. They started off winning their first four games before losing their final three. In Boston on February 10, Bryant scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half as the Lakers rallied from an early 15-point deficit for a 92–86 win over the Celtics. It was the Lakers first victory of the season against one of the league's top four teams, as they entered the game 0–5 in previous matchups and had been outscored by an average of 11 points. The Lakers finished the trip with a 104–99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Lakers entererd the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak and the league's sixth best record. The Cavaliers entered the game having lost 37 of its previous 39 games including an NBA record 26 consecutive losses and the earlier 112–57 loss to the Lakers. Gasol recorded his first 30-point, 20-rebound game against the Cavaliers. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and the press had discussed trade possibilities, but the trade deadline passed on February 24 without any moves. Both Bryant and Gasol were selected to play in the 2011 All-Star Game, with Bryant winning the All-Star MVP award.
After the All-Star break, the Lakers started 8–0 including a 16-point blowout against the top ranked San Antonio Spurs (51–12), whom they led by as many as 32 points in the third quarter. The win also ended the Spurs' franchise-record home winning streak at 22. Jackson conceded that San Antonio's 6½-game lead in the West may be too big to overcome with 18 games left. On March 10, the Lakers ended their winning streak, losing to the Heat 94–88, while the Heat stopped their five-game losing streak. Since the All-Star break, the Lakers rejuvenated themselves with tough defense and strong performances by Andrew Bynum. On March 20, Bynum was suspended for two games for a flagrant foul against Michael Beasley. On March 22, the Lakers defeated the Suns 139–137 in triple overtime. Bryant scored 42 points, and Odom had a season-high 29 points and 16 rebounds while playing over 55 minutes filling in for the suspended Bynum. They followed that victory up with another win, 112–104 over the Los Angeles Clippers with the help of a 37-point performance from Bryant.
The Lakers improved their record to 17–1 since the All-Star break before losing five straight games, putting them out of reach from the best record in the Western Conference. The losing streak ended with a 102–93 home win over the Spurs, who sat out Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginóbili. However, Bynum sustained a hyperextended right knee when he landed on DeJuan Blair's foot in the game. He missed the remaining games of the season with a bruised knee, but returned for the playoffs. Blake was diagnosed with chickenpox and missed the rest of the season. During the Spurs' game, Bryant used a derogatory gay term in frustration over a referee’s call and was later fined $100,000 by the NBA. The Lakers and Bryant later apologized for the use of the word while Bryant appealed the fine. The Lakers produced a public service announcement with Bryant and other Lakers denouncing Bryant's behavior. In the last game of the regular season, the Lakers secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference of the 2011 playoffs with a 116–108 overtime win over the Kings in possibly their last game in Sacramento. The Lakers surrendered a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Bryant made a tying 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Lakers played the New Orleans Hornets, a team they beat four times in the regular season. The Lakers lost 109–100 in their opener in the playoffs to the Hornets, who were led by Chris Paul and his 33 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds. The Lakers had not lost a playoff opener at home in 15 years. Bryant had 34 points on 13-for-26 shooting, while Gasol had eight points on two-of-nine shooting, six rebounds, zero offensive rebounds and poor defense on pick-and-roll plays. "It’s up to me to get myself going, be more aggressive, get myself into rhythm," Gasol said. "He’s not naturally aggressive," Bryant said. Bynum and Barnes played after injuries at the end of the regular season, while Blake remained out with the chicken pox. The Lakers won Game 2, 87–78, led by Bynum's 17 points and 11 rebounds. Odom scored 16 points, and Artest added 15. Bryant had only 11 points, but insisted to Jackson that he guard Paul, who finished with 20 points and nine assists. Gasol had eight points and five rebounds, and shot just four-for-19 from the field in the first two games. Blake returned in Game 2 and did not score but had five assists and three rebounds. Bryant scored 30 points, Gasol added 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the Lakers won Game 3 in New Orleans, 100–86. Bryant again helped to defend Paul, who had 22 points, eight assists, and five turnovers. The Lakers lost 93–88 in Game 4 as Paul had 27 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds and the smaller Hornets outrebounded the Lakers 39–32 and held a 20–4 advantage second-chance points. Bryant was scoreless in the first half, shooting 0–7, and he finished with 17 points on 5–18 shooting. Bryant sprained his left ankle with 1:32 remaining in the game, and used crutches to leave the arena. Bryant, after refusing to get an MRI exam and X-rays, played in Game 5 and had two spectacular dunks in a 106–90 victory. The larger Laker front line helped the team regain control in rebounds with a 42–25 advantage over the Hornets, resulting in a 22–2 disparity in second-chance points. Bynum had 18 points and 10 rebounds. The Lakers won the series 4–2 with a 98–80 win in Game 6. Bryant scored 22 of his 24 points in the first three quarters, and Bynum had 18 points and 12 rebounds. The Lakers again outrebounded New Orleans, 43–30, and held the advantage in second-chance points, 21–4. Paul had 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Hornets head coach Monty Williams said, "Kobe's Kobe, but I thought Bynum decided the series. He was that good."
In the second round, the Lakers faced the Dallas Mavericks, who advanced past the Portland Trail Blazers, 4–2. In Game 1 of the series, the Lakers lost a close match to the Mavericks 96–94 after blowing a 16-point lead at early in the 3rd quarter. Then in Game 2, the Lakers lost another game by a wider margin, 81–93. The Lakers also lost Ron Artest for the end of Game 2 and for Game 3 after he hit Dallas player J.J. Barea in the face in the closing moments of the game. Following Game 2, Andrew Bynum told the press that the team was having "trust issues", a comment that sparked doubt of the Lakers' ability to win the series and the playoffs. After losing both home games, the Lakers headed to Dallas hoping to patch up the 0–2 hole by snatching up a win or two and taking the series back home. But, things looked bleak as they entered the highly partisan atmosphere of the American Airlines Center at Dallas. The Lakers ended the first quarter of Game 3 down 2 points, but made a surge during the next two quarters to take a 6-point lead. However, the Mavericks dominated the fourth quarter and took 32 points in that quarter to seal the game in their favor, 92–98, leaving the Lakers in an 0–3 hole. This intensified the doubts of the Lakers' attempt to make a three-peat, since no team in NBA history had ever climbed out of a 0–3 hole in the playoffs to win a series. The Lakers tried to make a last-ditch effort to win their final game in Dallas in Game 4, but were overwhelmed by Dallas in an 86–122 victory marked by a playoff record-tying 20 3-point field goals, many by Jason Terry, the star of the game. The Mavericks' bench scored the same as the whole Lakers roster. Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum were also ejected from the game after flagrant fouls on Dirk Nowitzki and J.J. Barea, respectively. What became the Lakers' last stand in the 2010–11 postseason was also marked by coach Phil Jackson's retirement. The Dallas Mavericks swept the Lakers with ease and moved on to the conference finals for the first time since 2006. The Lakers missed a chance for a record third three-peat and were swept for the seventh time in franchise history.
Former Laker and ESPN analyst Magic Johnson was disgusted with the Lakers' performance in Game 4, and stated in the ESPN Game 4 halftime report that the first half was "the worst that I've ever seen the Lakers play in a game that they need ... like they're already on vacation." During the series, it seemed as if the Lakers had uncharacteristic problems with closing out their games, something that they are usually famed for. The Lakers were swept for the seventh time in franchise history, but this sweep by the Mavericks is only the second time that the Lakers have been swept with home-court advantage. The Lakers lost by 30-plus points in a playoffs game for the fourth time in franchise history; the Mavericks won over the Lakers with the largest margin of victory in a game that clinched a sweep in the playoffs.