At a time when the Lakers have to fight, they show signs of giving up – Orange County Register
Editor’s note: This is the Monday, February 28 edition of the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter from journalist Kyle Goon. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, register here.
At the end of a long, nasty night in which most things went wrong for the Lakers, LeBron James addressed the media with a microphone in hand. The ‘Lakers’ flag slipped and fell against his hand as he was mid-sentence on how the team is looking to improve.
James must have laughed: “Even the microphone doesn’t work.”
Such were the vibes on Sunday night, which were, in every recognizable way, a disaster:
Friday, L, Mowers 105, Lakers 102
Sunday, L, New Orleans Pelicans 123, Lakers 95
The Lakers (27-33) are No. 9 in the Western Conference standings, 21.5 games behind the Phoenix Suns (42-10). They are 3.5 games behind the No. 8 Clippers for a knockout spot in the qualifying tournament, and 2.5 games ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans who are at tie for 10th place (11th place completely misses the playoffs).
HIGH POINT: It’s hard to say there was one.
LOW POINT: The Lakers’ loss to the Pelicans on Sunday night was unlike any other they’ve suffered this season. In a game they needed to win, which they recognized they needed to win, the Lakers were a virtual no-show, then let go of the noose in the middle of the game. Fans booed during this seasonbut never as strong and often as Sunday night – and this time it felt like the whole team was on target, as their deficit fell below 32 points for the then 11th-placed West team.
TRENDING TOPIC: An honest question arose from the chaos of Sunday night: did the Lakers give up?
The past week has seen a parade of stories trumpeting the dysfunction of the Lakers, James’ All-Star weekend teases his futureto reports meetings between the front office and Klutch to streamline, with disappointing results on the ground. In fact, it’s not hard to deduce that the latter was at least partly caused by the former. Conversation around the team was dominated by the fact that James and Lakers chiefs weren’t on the same page about the team’s future. As the two most important stakeholders in the well-being of the organization, it skews the team when rumors of feuds arise.
James’ desires and front office machinations rocked the team’s chemistry before: In 2018-19, after the Lakers failed to execute their first trade attempts for Anthony Davis, the Lakers crawled to the trade deadline in shambles, blowing themselves up in Indiana. .. Players had lived for weeks with the idea that they could be traded at any time. Obviously the trade deadline has passed this season, but given the idea that James wanted a reshuffle of the rosterand that the front office did not have enough confidence that a trade would significantly improve the team, it’s hard to see how any other player (or coach, for that matter) would find the motivation to go all out in a season in which the Lakers are clearly far from a fight. It should be added that the Lakers seemed to have courage immediately after the deadline, but Davis was injured soon after, which obviously dampened hopes.
The Lakers have resisted talking about how important one part of the season is over another, but it’s clear the week ahead is a game-changing one for the franchise, with just 22 games remaining. If they lose a few more games in a row, there may be nothing to salvage. James said: “We had a tough time with Dallas, Clippers again on Thursday, then Golden State on Saturday. And we still have 10 games on the road this month, or in March, so it doesn’t get any easier for us.
READING OF THE WEEK: As James hit out at the media for twisting his remarks during the All-Star break, it’s pretty clear that there were issues between him and the Lakers after the deadline. I wrote about James’ moves to create leverage, how transparent they were, and how many people in the organization resist taking responsibility for team failures.
HEAT: Although there is a strong temptation to leave a blank space, it is worth emphasizing how Dwight Howard competed. The 36-year-old has gaps, but plugged back into the starting lineup, Howard averaged 10 points and 13.5 rebounds in his two games. Frank Vogel said the veteran was delighted to be back in the rotation, and while some of his naturally positive energy was dampened following Sunday’s loss, the rest of the squad could try to find some part of the enthusiasm that Howard brings every night. .
RETURN TO CALM: There hasn’t been a more disappointing player than Russell Westbrook on Sunday. Before scoring an assist after nearly 43 minutes of play, the guard had a stat line of seven turnovers and zero assists. Rather than go around the defenses, he went straight for them. In one of his second-quarter turnovers, Westbrook drove into the paint full of three defenders, then lost the ball as he spun around looking for an outlet. The season required constant management of Westbrook’s worst instincts in order to exploit its most dynamic talents. But it seems the Lakers are back to square one with himand he just plays the way he wants.
INJURY REPORT: Obviously, Davis is out for a while. Depending on whether the Lakers can compete without him, it will be interesting to see if the franchise determines it’s worth putting him back in the roster by the time he’s healthy, which should be four weeks or more from now. James has been playing with a knee injury, which he says has significantly affected his game, but his elevation on Sunday didn’t seem to be at its usual level. Avery Bradley has now missed three games with knee swelling, and the only recent update is that he is day to day with the injury. Rob Pelinka said after the trade deadline that Kendrick Nunn was due back at the end of March, for all that it’s worth.
QUOTE: After Westbrook hinted that some of his teammates were bothered by home fans booing the team, he was asked if he took those boos home with him: “No. Take him home? Why? (expletive). Take him home? I have three beautiful children at home. Why would I bring it home? If they boo, they can take their (expletive) home. I don’t worry about that. It doesn’t bother me at all. That’s part of it, and I don’t care at all, and that’s how I do it.
AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Just win, baby. The Lakers are entering a part of their season where they will be underdogs in almost every game. If they need motivation, the Pelicans just provided it by showing that, as bad as things are, they could get worse if the Lakers pull out of the playoffs altogether. James said: “It all starts with a win. That’s where it starts. Try to get out of that slide and get a win, and learn from that win with things you did well, things you didn’t do so well.
COMING SOON (Every hour PT)
Tuesday, Dallas, 7 p.m.
Thursday, at Clippers, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Golden State, 5:30 p.m.
– Kyle Goon
Editor’s Note: Thanks for reading Journalist Kyle Goon’s Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, register here.