NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley went off on the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night, on TNT’s “Inside The NBA.” Amid the turmoil surrounding the benching of Russell Westbrook, and head coach Frank Vogel reportedly fighting for his job, Barkley believes the wrong people are being scapegoated.
“The Lakers are such wussies, and I’m saying wussies because I can’t say the word I want to say. The way they have tried to throw Russell Westbrook and Frank Vogel under the bus, is really pissing me off.”
"The way they have tried to throw Russell Westbrook and Frank Vogel under the bus is just really pissing me off."
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 21, 2022
The Lakers are 22-23, currently eighth in the Western Conference standings. The analytics and data website FiveThirtyEight predicts the Lakers will finish with a record of 37-45. Right now their model suggests the Lakers have a 29 percent chance of making the playoffs. That’s a far cry from being the No. 2 preseason title favorite, according to Las Vegas at +350.
They were the NBA champions just two seasons ago, but injuries and poor roster construction have derailed any hopes of a title run.
Chuck is right, in that pinning all the blame on Westbrook and Vogel is wrong. Whenever a team underperforms at this level, it’s never just one thing.
To be clear, Westbrook has been bad. This is his worst season in terms of impact. He is a -1.4 in EPM, and this is one of his worst seasons in terms of eFG% and TS% which were never strengths of his. He is well below league average. His defense has also been poor. It’s the main reason he was benched in the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers.
As far Vogel, you could question his rotations a little. But the roster is what it is. The Lakers were the No. 1-rated defense last year, and No. 3 the year before. He didn’t all of a sudden forget how to coach.
Internally, the Lakers made bad roster decisions. That falls on general manager Rob Pelinka, senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis, and LeBron James. Why James? Because roster moves do not get made without consulting him at a minimum.
“They’re blaming Frank Vogel and Russell Westbrook,” Barkley continued. “Listen, the people up top that put that trash together are running and hiding like cowards … you put all them old geezers out there.”
Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Wesley Matthews and Markieff Morris were replaced by Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn. That’s a lot of plus defenders out the door for negative ones.
It’s do-or-die time for the Lakers. They begin a six-game road trip on Friday night in Orlando against the Magic. Reports are that Anthony Davis could return from injury on this road trip, which include stops at the Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Charlotte Hornets, and Atlanta Hawks.
That’s not cupcake city with the exception of the Magic. They get the Nets on the second night of a back-to-back for Brooklyn, and face the Hornets the day after their game against the 76ers. Coming out of this trip 3-3 is likely the best they can do.