Coming off the back of the All-Star break, hopes were high, “play-off mode” had been activated, and the Lakers were set to push for post-season honours. Since then, things haven’t exactly gone to plan, much to the frustration of the fans. The Lakers have recently lost to the Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans (without Anthony Davis), Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Denver Nuggets.
The losses to the Grizzlies and Pelicans were frustrating, however dropping a game to the Phoenix Suns was simply humiliating. These dismal run of results have all but put to bed the chances of the team making the playoffs. Even if the Lakers somehow snatched the eighth seed, it would surely be a short lived stay in the post-season. Not exactly an attractive prospect.
This season has to be considered a complete write off and the fall out will be huge. In addition, Lebron James’ highly documented record of playoff (13-straight seasons) and finals runs (since 2010) will crash to an end.
LeBron James has been on the receiving end of heavy criticism in the last few weeks. Some of it justified, some of it far-fetched. Matt wrote an excellent article recently for Lakers Fanclub UK on who is to blame within the Laker organisation. Whilst I agree with parts of the article and disagree with others, the one main aspect that we can all agree on as Laker fans is that this season has been a disappointment.
Moving forward there will be a huge amount of pressure on the front office, including Jeanie Buss. In my opinion, the Basketball Operations side of the organisation needs to be re-structured. Laker fans have suffered mediocrity for far too long now and it has to stop. It is fantastic that Lebron James chose to finish his career in Los Angeles, however he and his camp are not bigger than the franchise nor will they ever be. James has signed a three-year contract with an option for a further year, consequently this is not like the situation in Cleveland where year-on-year he can hold the team to ransom.
From a stats perspective James is having a very good season, there is no doubting that, averaging a near 27-point triple-double. These are impressive stats, but do not tell the full story. James is now 34-years-old and at times, he looks it. From time-to-time, he lacks the explosiveness that he previously possessed, and his low effort on defense is concerning.
With a large cache of free agents to pursue in the summer, who do the Lakers go for, and realistically who do they have a chance of signing? There is a narrative floating around that stars do not want to play with LeBron, and that may be the case. Although, Lebron is starting the twilight years of his career and he will not be around for long. Something needs to be done, moves need to be made to make this franchise relevant again.
The trade talks for Anthony Davis is evidence that Magic Johnson is in a difficult position. He did not want to be accused of not trying hard enough to get Davis, especially having previously missed out on Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. The scrutiny he has received for going “all in” can be justified, making himself and the organisation appear desperate.
There will be a great deal of upheaval in the summer for the Lakers’ front office with expiring contracts, and (most likely) a new coach/backroom staff to hire. The biggest challenge facing Magic Johnson and co. will be the task of establishing a winning mentality as soon as possible. Even through signing star players, acquiring such culture does take time and is something that the Lakers organisation have not experienced for a number of years now.
Whilst acquiring a star to play alongside LeBron James will be the quickest route to success, could it be time for an aging James to step-back and allow such addition to take the reign. Just like Dwayne Wade did in 2011 when James joined Miami. Would that be more appealing for prospective free-agents? Maybe it would be, only time will tell.
To sign off, I would like to wish Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka luck. They’re going to need it!