The Los Angeles Lakers stink right now, plain and simple.
From the best basketball player in the world, LeBron James, joining a young, unproven core barely old enough to buy a drink – to a drama-filled season loaded with intense trade speculation as the Lakers hope to bring a championship back to LA – it’s been a wild couple of months to start the season.
But to understand the entirety of the Lakers tumultuous season, we have to go back to day one. The first day of free agency: Jul. 1, 2018.
When James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers to a four-year $154 million dollar deal, the team wasn’t even remotely capable of contending for a title.
Fortunately, the Lakers are in a position to potentially acquire the personnel necessary to win a championship with the cap space they’d have next season.
James has alongside him a promising young core consisting of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
“I think more importantly than what I need to share with the younger guys, I think what a lot of people are missing is how hungry for knowledge that the young guys are. Kuz and Zo and Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram,” James stated according to CCTV. “We have young guys that are extremely excited not only about playing the game, but also learning the game. That’s going to help out even more because those guys are just hungry for knowledge, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Shortly after James signed with the Lakers, the front office made the mind-boggling decision to sign JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley. How were they going to help James space the floor to create better percentage shots at the rim like teams he’d been on in the past?
McGee’s offense is limited to shots around the basket, and is mainly known for his defensive presence. Stephenson’s and Rondo’s three-point percentages are below the league average. And then there’s Beasley, a once-promising young player that had to be dragged out of bed to go workout.
Both James and Lakers’ president of basketball operations, Magic Johnson, preached patience. As with any newly assembled team, chemistry will continue to grow stronger as the season progresses, barring monumental change.
“As I was talking to Luke [with GM Rob Pelinka], we said don’t worry about if we get out to a bad start,” Johnson said, according to ESPN.
James agreed, saying to the LA Times, “I’m not a very patient guy, but I understand that I have to be patient right now. I got to be patient with myself too because this is a new start for me. This is my first year here. This is my first year in the new system. I know how to play the game of basketball, but this is all new to me too. So I have to be patient with myself. Not only with my teammates, but more with myself.”
Not even two weeks into the season, with the Lakers struggling and going 2-5, James was visibly upset with how the team was performing. During the seven game stretch, the Lakers defense looked lackadaisical, and had been unable to hold onto leads late into the game.
“We talk about patience but you can’t have recurrence of the same thing,” James told reporters. “If you are doing the same things over and over and over and expecting the same result then that’s insanity… You probably don’t want to be around when my patience runs out.”
A week after James’ comments about the team needing to step their game up, Johnson held a meeting with Lakers head coach Luke Walton. In the meeting, Johnson was livid, scolding Walton for the teams slow start, making what he said about having patience prior to the start of the season seem like a joke.
Perhaps a fire was lit with the team after word got out about the meeting, as the Lakers finally seemed to have hit their stride afterwards, managing to reach the fourth seed in a highly competitive western conference.
On a Christmas day match up with the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, James went down with a groin injury that kept him out for the next 17 games.
The team undoubtedly missed his presence on the court, going 6-11.
Approaching the Feb. 7 trade deadline, the Lakers desperately needed some help to boost the teams chances of getting into the playoffs.
On Jan. 28, 2019, New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis announced to the world that he would not sign a contract extension with the Pelicans this upcoming offseason and prefers to be traded. The Pelicans would be stupid to not find a suitor for Davis, as they would get nothing in return if Davis walks out of New Orleans as a free agent.
Out of all the teams that offered trade packages for Davis, the Lakers had the best assets available, besides Boston. Essentially trying to trade their entire young core of Ball, Kuzma and Ingram, the trade failed miserably as the Pelicans kept asking for more.
Leaks of the potential trade were ousted to the public, causing immense chemistry issues within the team. Even after James returned from his injury, the Lakers have only compiled a 4-9 record.
The team looked uninterested, uninspired and most importantly, feel underappreciated after all the turmoil. It is hard to blame them.
Walton is going to be fired at the end of the season. With his god-awful inability to manage minutes for his players to his powerlessness of bringing the team together after a disastrous trade deadline, it’s going to happen. This is not the Walton we saw when he was the interim head coach of the Warriors, guiding them to a 24-0 start to the season and 39-4 overall before Steve Kerr returned from rehabilitation.
Rondo, Stephenson and McGee, who are all signed to one-year deals, will be gone come the season’s end. Beasley was traded mid-way through the season as he never panned out. Magic and Pelinka’s plan to sign players who are tough-minded and scrappy to help fill leadership roles and to play alongside James never came to fruition. They need to face the facts: James needs shooters on the floor to help spread the opposing teams defense. The bread and butter of James’ game is his ability to play-make for others. When James drives to the basket, defenses will likely swarm to him, leaving shooters standing outside the paint open for an uncontested shot.
With all the drama surrounding the Lakers just one year into LeBron’s tenure, it’s going to be a challenge to attract marquee players to play alongside him in LA. But LA is the place to be at for high-profile coverage, landing sponsorships and playing for a legendary franchise (not the Clippers). James still is the best player in the game today, and he’s always found a way to get the players he wants to play with.
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