The Lakers Have Hit Rock Bottom
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. You know it's a tough season when LeBron James is being booed by Lakers' fans. After being embarrassed on their home court by the New Orleans Pelicans 123 - 95, the Lakers are in free-fall, and could miss out on the playoffs entirely.
Think back to February 15. The Los Angeles Rams had just won the Super Bowl. LeBron had casually suggested that the Lakers should get to join in on the championship parade because COVID wiped out their parade in 2019. That sure seems like a long time ago.
The Lakers were uncompetitive last night against a supposedly inferior opponent and their fans booed the team off the court. Social media captured several moments where Lakers' players were making passive-aggressive comments towards fans. Even LeBron was loudly booed after another careless turnover. You know things are really bad if King James is being booed by a home crowd.
The Pelicans came into Crypto.com Arena as the 10th seed in the Western Conference, one spot below the Lakers. The Lakers were coming off a narrow loss to their cross-town rival Los Angeles Clippers and this was the game to right the ship. Instead, it was the Pelicans who looked like the ascending team.
Despite another strong effort from LeBron James, who scored 32 points on 56% from the field, the Lakers continued to shoot themselves in the foot like they've been doing all season. Russell Westbrook, who was brought to Los Angeles to provide scoring and playmaking punch alongside James and Anthony Davis, was putrid again, scoring 16 points and chipping in just one assist. Longtime NBA veteran Carmelo Anthony was the only other Laker to score in double figures, adding 13 points off the bench.
And speaking of Westbrook, good lord...what else can be said at this point? The enigmatic superstar had a seriously bad day, although you wouldn't know it from his press conference. When asked about the booing and if that's something he might take home with him, Westbrook dismissed any concerns, saying, "Do I take it home with me? Nah. I've got three beautiful kids at my house and my wife. I ain't taking it home. They can take their booing and they can take their ass home. I ain't worried about that. It doesn't bother me none."
Let's unpack this for a second. Should Russell Westbrook, the nine-time All-Star, the two-time scoring champ, former MVP, be too concerned about some fans booing him? Of course not. He's one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. He's a sure-fire Hall of Famer. He is the only man to average a triple-double in a season since Oscar Robertson back in 1962.
With all of that said, that was a pretty bad look from Westbrook. The Lakers fans are booing because the team is trash. Westbrook is a part of that team. He should start getting worried, otherwise this miserable Lakers' season will be over and they will be on the outside looking-in come playoff time.
It's really amazing how quickly Lakers' fans, NBA fans and even the NBA media has turned on Westbrook. In the offseason, LeBron James reportedly wanted Westbrook in Tinseltown so badly that he nixed a different trade that would have seen the Lakers acquire sharpshooter Buddy Hield from the Sacramento Kings. I'm sure the Lakers would kill for a do-over at this point.
Westbrook was supposed to be final piece that launched the Lakers to another championship. Like Danny DeVito to the show, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Westbrook was supposed to be Frank Reynolds, a huge addition to an already excellent cast - the character that would take the show from great to unforgettable. Instead, reality for the Lakers has looked more like the plot to a Sunny episode: lots of plots and schemes but absolutely no results as things descend into bickering and madness.
So, Westbrook has been a dud. Anthony Davis got hurt and then wasn't and now he's hurt again. LeBron is still doing LeBron-things, but he's been a one-man-show. At least Malik Monk is killing it. The fifth-year guard is averaging career highs in scoring and shooting percentage this season. Plus, he just started dating pop-star Iggy Azalea. Way to go, Malik!
While Malik might be living his best life, the rest of the Lakers are going through a season they'd rather forget. They remain 9th in the Western Conference despite the loss to the Pelicans, although the Pels are looking frisky at just one spot below. The rest of the schedule won't get much easier for the Lakers, either.
"We got a tough stretch with Dallas, Clippers again Thursday, then Golden State on Saturday," said LeBron after the game. "And we still go 10 road games this month, or March, so it don't get easier for us."
The Lakers had better start making some progress towards being competitive again, otherwise they might miss out on the playoffs entirely. If the season ended today, the Lakers, as the 9th seed, would play the 10th seeded Pelicans for the right to play the loser of the 8th and 7th seed. This is the new NBA play-in tournament. No, I don't get it either.
With so much talent on the roster, it's inexcusable that the Lakers are this bad. They have lost seven of their last ten. Fourteen of their last twenty. Thye turned the ball over a season high 23 times last night. That's not playoff basketball. That's not even play-in basketball.
Maybe they should just try harder. That was Westbrook's evaluation.
"Teams are coming in, playing harder, and I believe that's kind of their scouting report: just play harder than them and see what happens," said Westbrook in his post-game press conference. "And it's working. Until we determine and have the determination that we're not going to allow it, especially on our home floor, it will continue to happen to us."
Well said, Russ. Although, not really. Because don't you have control over your own effort, Russ? If all the Lakers need to do is play harder, can't you lead by example, Russ? Why does a team comprised of LeBron "Possibly the Greatest NBA Player Ever" James, Anthony "Out-of-this-World Athlete" Davis, Russell "Mr. Triple-Double, Himself" Westbrook, Carmelo "There's No Such Thing as a Bad Shot" Anthony, and Malik "I'm Living the Dream" Monk need to be reminded to try hard in the first place? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here.
Despite their comical issues, this is still a superstar-laden team that has, above all, LeBron. Whichever team is unlucky enough to face the Lakers in the play-in tournament will still have to deal with the King. If Anthony Davis can come back healthy, which is a long-shot, they still have the proverbial "punchers chance". But if they can't manage to string together some wins down the stretch, they won't even have the opportunity to show their punch, if they ever had it in the first place.