Lakers season of high hopes is falling apart
Peter St. John | Wednesday, March 6, 2019
The NBA regular season officially ends April 10. But in reality, the season finishes at different times for different teams. For the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns, it barely retained any meaning past November. For the Golden States Warriors, it has only just begun. And for the Los Angeles Lakers, the curtain has just come down and the summer vacation might as well start. Sure, there are 18 games and five weeks still to go officially, but you can put a fork in these Lakers because they are done. The final rites happened in sorry fashion Saturday in a loss to the pathetic Phoenix Suns, who captured only their 13th win of the season amid a whopping 51 defeats.
But such ignominy is the kind of fate that befalls a sorry team, and that’s exactly what the Lakers are now and have been for most of this campaign. They’re sorry because they have a sorry structure, patched together last summer to try to cater to LeBron James in a manner that appeared haphazard at the time, and feels even more like it now. They’re sorry because they have sorry leadership, with the executive branch having blundered its way through the Anthony Davis debacle and, on the court, James has done little to improve or inspire the youthful talent around him. The mathematics say the Lakers could still make the playoffs, in the same way a 5-month-old could rise to its feet, walk over to you and begin talking in complete sentences.
At 30-33, Los Angeles has lost eight of 12 since James returned from injury, in a symmetrical pattern of one step (a win) forward, followed by two steps (a pair of losses) backward. Since the All-Star break that was supposed to spark a revival, Los Angeles is 2-4 and sits 4.5 games behind the local neighbor Clippers for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. James hasn’t been effective at doing much apart from putting up solid numbers on his own stat sheet. If James attains a high position in the MVP voting, it will be a joke. The award is about value, and he hasn’t provided anything like enough of it. Maybe he has made attempts behind closed doors at mentoring the likes of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, but if he has, they haven’t worked. All of those young players still know how to display certain basketball skills adeptly, but they have picked up nothing about how to mesh together into a tight unit capable of big things. If that hasn’t happened after nearly a full season of playing with one of the best ever, isn’t something wrong here?
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.