The Los Angeles Lakers have lost three straight, the latest a blowout loss at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. The loss was so bad it prompted Lakers and NBA legend Magic Johnson to rip the team via Twitter, questioning the team’s effort.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 16, 2022
Lakers star LeBron James tweeted out an apology to Lakers fans vowing the team will be better.
#LakerNation I apologize and I promise we’ll be better! 👑💜💛
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 17, 2022
The Lakers are 21st in aDRTG and at times look disinterested on that end of the floor.
In 2020 when they won the title they ranked third during the regular season and last year they were first. It has been quite the falloff.
You can blame injuries to James and Anthony Davis, but the roster has lost a lot of defensive talent. Alex Caruso, Kentavious, Caldwell-Pope, and Kyle Kuzma were good defenders for this team the last two seasons.
They’ve been replaced by Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. Nobody in that crew can be confused for good defenders.
In the blowout loss to the Nuggets, a fake pass by reigning MVP Nikola Jokic had James so confused he was just stuck in no man’s land between the rim and the corner.
Jokic had LeBron not knowing what to do (something LeBron has done to opposing defenders plenty)… pic.twitter.com/LpEqvzdTvT
— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) January 16, 2022
We are past the halfway point of the season and unless the Lakers make a major move at the trade deadline it is not clear how they will morph into a better defensive team.
Their next 15 games before the All-Star break are going to be really important. Nine of the 15 will be on the road, where you need your defense to be locked in, and 9 of the 15 will be against above .500 teams.
Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook, whose poor play is a big reason for the team’s struggles, didn’t seem too concerned with Magic ripping the team.
“I do not have a reaction,” Westbrook said after the loss, VIA ESPN. “Everybody is entitled, in this world, to their opinion. Regardless of what that it is. You can either take it and run with it or you can take it and put it in one ear and out the other or you cannot respond to it.
“Magic’s entitled to his opinion. And he’s not here every day. He’s not around us every day. He’s not aware of what’s going on internally with us and trying to figure things out. But I have no response to that. … Like I said, everyone in this world is entitled to their opinion and that’s that.”
Westbrook is right. Magic isn’t there every day, so he doesn’t know what the Lakers are dealing with internally. All he can do is comment on what he sees on the floor. As a five-time champion, three-time MVP, and one of the greatest players of all time, he does know what effort and a sense of urgency looks like. No matter how Westbrook and the Lakers want to spin it, it’s not there right now.
A healthy LeBron and Davis will remedy some of their issues, but not all. The roster is old, ill-fitting, and the top end of the West is too talented. Look at the loss to the Nuggets. Jokic is playing without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., the next two best players on the team. Yet, he finds a way to elevate his team and get wins.
LeBron, at age 37, is going to have to lead the way for this team. He’s been excellent offensively, but the effort and urgency is going to have to come on the defensive end.