The Los Angeles Lakers limp into the all-star break after suffering their 8th loss in 11 games, 117-113 to the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday night. Despite LeBron James passing Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time triple-doubles list with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists the Lakers finish their six game road trip 2-4. The Lakers fall under .500 for the first time since early November and this is the latest any LeBron James team has been under .500 since his rookie season with the Cavs. It’s been a trying season for a Lakers team that has dealt with drama on and off the court throughout the first half of the season. More recently with the rumors surrounding a potential Anthony Davis trade, the Lakers have been completely out of sync lately and according to LeBron post-game Tuesday night after the Lakers loss the team needs to “decompress and get away from the game.” More appropriately the Lakers need to exit stage left during the break and reappear with a completely different act when they return to the floor at home in nine days against the Rockets.
A team coming into this season with the hope of returning to glory with the arrival of LeBron James, the return of the Lake Show has been a bit of a slow burn. It was unrealistic to think that this team would compete for a championship this season given the young core and inexperience that still needed time to grow and mature under James’ leadership. That progress though has been much slower than expected and questions about Luke Walton’s job security have been growing louder and louder by the day with each Lakers loss mounting. Not to mention your man LaVar Ball has recently resurfaced and has set his sights on the embattled Lakers coach. The Lakers are never short on drama, but the lack of results on the court have left much to be desired. During the 17 games James was out of commission due to a groin injury the Lakers went 6-11. At times the young core, especially Kyle Kuzma, showed flashes of what the future could look like once James returned including an impressive OT road win over the Thunder. For as impressive wins like that were against the Thunder, the Lakers struggled mightily in losses to the Knicks, Bulls, and Cavs. The Lakers have dealt with injuries to veteran guard Rajon Rondo and second year guard Lonzo Ball who is currently dealing with an ankle injury. That and inconsistent play on the defensive end of the court has this team at 28-29 and two and a half games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with the Clippers ahead of them also.
If you would’ve told Lakers fans that they would behind their Staples Center roommates at the all-star break, they would’ve told you you had lost your mind. Yet here the Lakers sit twenty-third in the NBA in scoring defense and another bad loss to an Eastern Conference bottom feeder, there is real concern in Tinsel Town these days. Even James said himself according to Silver Screen & Roll’s Harrison Faigen with respect to making the playoffs, “you either make it or you don’t make it.” A stark contrast to the optimism that surrounded the Lakers at the beginning of the season. The Lakers have not made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season, an eternity for the sixteen time NBA Championship franchise. For Magic Johnson and the Lakers brass there is always immense pressure to win and now more than ever with three-time champion LeBron James on the roster. Yes, James signed a 4-year deal with the Lakers, but theoretically the window is very short in how quickly this franchise can win a championship in James’ extended prime. Patience appears to be wearing thin with head coach Luke Walton as the Lakers continue to struggle with consistency on the floor even with the return of James to the lineup recently. The Lakers, who are continuing to deal with the fallout of the failed Anthony Davis trade, must refocus their attention on how to win games on the floor instead of fighting PR battles off it. The very public negotiations between the Lakers and Pelicans did nothing to quiet the media circus that already surrounds the glamour franchise of the NBA further complicating what has been a difficult start to the season. The Lakers made minor moves at the trade deadline to try and improve their shooting, but nothing to call home about.
The first act of the Lakers 2018-19 season has deserved more of a Razzie than an Oscar award so far up to this point. As much as any team across the league, the Lakers couldn’t be more happy to see the all-star break. James will be playing in his 15th straight all-star game on Sunday night in Charlotte as the lone Lakers representative on the Western Conference all-star team this season. Once Sunday evening concludes the Lakers will return to the national stage on Thursday February 21st against the Rockets. Only time will tell if the second act of this NBA season will deliver a breakthrough performance or lead to a permanent stage left exit for the Lake Show this season.