The Los Angeles Lakers are 0-3 to start the season and while they’ve actually been good defensively, ranked eighth in aDRTG, they’ve been horrendous offensively. They rank last in aORTG, last in three point percentage and last in eFG%. Russell Westbrook has been the lightning rod for criticism, but he’s just the most obvious symptom of a debilitating disease. The Lakers lack leadership, and if they don’t find it this season will be even uglier than last.
After the Lakers’ opening-night loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors. LeBron James talked about the looks the team got from three. He suggested there were open looks that maybe the Warriors gave them, because the Lakers aren’t a great shooting team.
“We’re getting great looks, but it could also be teams giving us great looks. To be completely honest, we’re not a team constructed of great shooting. … It’s not like we’re sitting here with a lot of lasers on our team.”
LeBron James on Lakers’ poor shooting in loss to Warriors: “We’re getting great looks, but it could also be teams giving us great looks. To be completely honest, we’re not a team constructed of great shooting… It’s not like we’re sitting here with a lot of lasers on our team.” pic.twitter.com/VfqWnKcQ3D
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) October 19, 2022
LeBron isn’t wrong per se. They aren’t the Warriors when it comes to three-point shooting. But they aren’t this bad either. Kendrick Nunn, Patrick Beverley, LeBron, and Lonnie Walker are all at least league average (35 percent) or better from three in their careers. So, no, they aren’t lasers. But they’re better than what they’ve shown through three games.
We didn’t mention Anthony Davis and Westbrook. More on the former MVP later. Three pointers aren’t really a part of Davis’ game. Only one season in his career — 2019-2020 —has he attempted as many as 3.5 per game.
Back to Westbrook.
In the Lakers’ latest loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, with the Lakers leading 102-101 with about 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Westbrook took a horrendous shot early in the clock, allowing the Blazers to rebound the miss and capitalize.
Following the game Westbrook said he was going for a 2 for 1. That doesn’t make sense because the Lakers were winning. And if you’re still convinced a 2 for 1 was the right play, a pull-up mid range jumper, which he’s terrible at, isn’t the play.
Video of LeBron and Davis while Westbrook took that shot has gone viral.
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) October 23, 2022
In his postgame media availability LeBron addressed shot selection in general, and then Westbrook’s shot specifically when asked.
“Shot selection is always a part of the game, no matter if it’s the last couple minutes of the game or the first few minutes of the game,” James said. “You want to play the right way. Always. No matter what the time and the score is. And you should always be understanding of what’s the best shot you can get throughout the course of a possession.”
“I don’t know,” James said. “I feel like this is an interview of trying to set me up to say something. I can tell that you guys are in the whole Russell Westbrook category right now. … You guys can write about Russ and all the things you want to try to talk about Russ, but I’m not up here to do that. I won’t do it. I’ve said it over and over. That is not my (M.O.). That’s not who I am.”
LeBron is a genius basketball mind. He knows that was a bad shot by Russ. It’s OK to not want to call your teammate out publicly. But LeBron already did that by making the comment after the Warriors game about the team’s shooting. A fact that Stephen A. Smith pointed out on “First Take.”
“Don’t think you’re that damn smart that you get to navigate through this. We, talking about the media setting you up to get at Russell Westbrook: No, my brother. You did that. Opening night when you said ‘we’re not a team of shooters.’ You know good and well who everyone was going to look at and you said it anyway. You gotta own that, my brother.”
"Don't think you're that damn smart that you get to navigate through this. We, talking about the media setting you up to get at Russell Westbrook: No, my brother. You did that… You gotta own that my brother."@stephenasmith's message to LeBron James 👀pic.twitter.com/n5siIqO0Gq
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) October 24, 2022
The comments after opening night and then again after Sunday night’s loss are right out of the LeBron playbook. As excellent as he is, and he’s arguably the greatest player ever, his leadership style is passive-aggressive.
In the past he’s subtweeted teammates, called out their mistakes when he is the one who is in the wrong. It’s not the ideal way to bring a team together. Though LeBron stans will argue his four rings say otherwise.
TrueHoop’s David Thorpe, a player development coach and NBA analyst for over 20 years, told The Shadow League the Lakers’ problems go beyond Westbrook’s bad play.
“There’s a sinister thing happening here,” said Thorpe. “LeBron and AD don’t give a **** about this team. They don’t care. … I’ve now confirmed what I’ve seen with my eyes from sources. There’s no leadership there with those two guys.”
The Lakers show no signs of loving or trusting each other.
— Henry Abbott (@TrueHoop) October 24, 2022
Short of trading Westbrook tomorrow or paying him to not play, LeBron and the Lakers are stuck with him for now. How does this type of leadership benefit the team?
The Lakers still have championship hopes, and while they’re not dashed, this is not the type of start they were looking for, nor is it the type of leadership they need.