The Los Angeles Lakers gave up 51 points to the Dallas Mavericks in the third quarter of a 124-115 L.A. loss on Christmas, and LeBron James was brutally honest about the state of the team. The Lakers are 13-20 and in 13th place in the Western Conference. They are missing Anthony Davis, who is out indefinitely with a stress injury in his foot, but giving up 51 in a quarter is unacceptable.
“I think I look at it that way,” James said, when asked if the Lakers’ proven resiliency gives him belief in their ability to right the ship. “I look at it the other way, too, like, how many times are you going to try to dig yourselves out until it’s too much dirt on you?”
The Lakers are 3-7 in their past 10 games and they are 25th in adjusted net rating. That’s Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, and Detroit Pistons territory. In other words, the Lakers are among the worst teams in the league.
Head coach Darvin Ham is not playing Davis’ backup Thomas Bryant significant minutes for some reason, and the Lakers are giving up offensive rebounds and taxing the soon-to-be 38-year-old Bron.
“You throw everything up against the wall and see what sticks, ” Ham explained. “It’s one of those types of situations. AD’s not here, not in the lineup. We’re not going to start using that as an excuse. Hell yeah, it’s a big hole in our lineup. But now, we’re pros. We’ve got to step up.”
So why play Patrick Beverley, Austin Reaves and Dennis Schroeder all those minutes if it’s an AD hole? Of course you can’t make up for AD with one player, but you need size and length.
“Reality is, without AD, we lose a lot of length, which we don’t have already,” James said. “So we have to make up in ways that, without AD, is very difficult, very challenging. So, I think at one point we had a lineup of I think [Austin Reaves] was the tallest guy on the court. So, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out [that Davis is sorely missed].”
Bron is still playing at a high level and finished the game with 38 points, six rebounds, and five assists. But this team won’t make the play-in tournament, never mind the playoffs, as presently constructed.
“If we have to continue to upgrade our roster throughout the season, we will,” general manager Rob Pelinka said. “That’s what the trade deadline is for and other things.”
The Lakers will undoubtedly be buyers at the trade deadline, but who could they realistically target and acquire? What draft capital or players would other people find valuable, assuming Bron and AD are off the table?
This is the other side of mortgaging away your future to acquire super max players. The Lakers won a championship so they can say that it worked. But in the two seasons since, out in the first round of the playoffs, and missed the playoffs.
Now they have to hope their aging, often injured super max players will be healthy. That’s not a strategy for success.