Lakers’ Next Step Is Painfully Obvious: Blow Everything Up

Hello rock bottom, meet the Los Angeles Lakers.

For fans of the Purple and Gold, it’s hard to remember a more disappointing season than this 2021-22 campaign. Perhaps the 2012-13 Lakers, when Dwight Howard and Steve Nash were brought on to join Kobe Bryant in forming the next great championship team. Though while they were unceremoniously swept out of the first round, they at least won 45 games and made the playoffs.

This year’s Lakers team would be jumping for joy just to reach .500.

It’s been a miserable year for LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and the rest of this past-its-prime roster. Yet somehow, LA managed to reach an even lower low on Sunday night after getting embarrassed by the New Orleans Pelicans.

It’s important not to overreact after a single bad game. But the frustrations have been slowly building over the last 4+ months, and now they’ve simply reached a boiling point. Finally, at 27-33, it’s time to create a new plan for these Lakers: Blow it up, start again.

Lakers reach new low in loss to Pelicans

A typical Lakers loss in 2021-22 features any one of the following — Incessant turnovers, ill-advised shots, and disinterested defense. Sunday just happened to have all three.

LA fell flat on its face throughout its 123-95 loss to the Pelicans. The Lakers were down 11 points at the half before getting outscored 44-25 in the third quarter. As a team, they shot 33.3% and went 0-of-9 from deep in quarter number three while New Orleans shot 64.0% from the field.

But it wasn’t just one bad quarter. The Lakers had 23 total turnovers, with James and Westbrook each registering seven apiece. LeBron and Howard were the only Lakers to shoot 50.0% or better with five or more attempts. And no one could buy a three, with the team finishing a paltry 7-of-34 from beyond the arc.

Fittingly, boos reigned down from the paying customers at Crypto.com Arena for large portions of the second half. Even LeBron, who scored a team-high 32 points, was met with boos after tossing away another possession with an errant pass. But not even the harsh reaction from the LA faithful was enough to phase the players, as Westbrook was asked if he takes the criticism back home with him after a game like this.

“Nah,” Westbrook told ESPN. “Take it home? For what? S***. Take it home? I got three beautiful kids at my house. Why would I take it home? If they boo, they can take their a** home. I ain’t worried about that. It doesn’t bother me none.”

A full-scale rebuild has become even more necessary

Before LA took the court for what is now its 14th loss in 20 games, there was a growing desire for serious changes to take place within the organization. No, not just a Westbrook trade. No, not just a change at head coach. But full-scale changes to a franchise that’s clearly in no man’s land.

Sunday night made that choice obvious.

Although he was dealt a bad hand, the Frank Vogel era should come to an end. Vogel is a championship-winning coach who’s respected around the league. Should he get another job after this? Absolutely. But based on how his players respond to him and the lack of effort and intensity they display on a near-nightly basis, a new voice is needed.

Westbrook shouldn’t have ever been a Laker. But thanks to “LeGM” and his co-GM Davis, Rob Pelinka had little choice but to trade all remaining depth and cap space away in order to bring Russ to Hollywood. Enough is enough. Throw in a first, heck throw in two first-round picks. Brodie’s tired act should be nowhere near LA again once this miserable season is over.

This is where things get interesting. LeBron and AD are the core of a club that was expected to be in title contention for years to come. But the bubble championship seems like an eternity ago. Since then, both stars have been hit with countless injuries, Davis in particular. And it’s prevented the Lakers from gaining any sort of momentum up the standings.

So what is the solution? It’s simple, really. If there is a team willing to trade for Davis, who wants to make him its number one star, and who is willing to pay with significant draft compensation, you listen. You really listen. And before you say no, remember that James could abandon you in a year or two anyway, leaving a brittle Davis as your sole hope for a title.

Speaking of James, trading LeBron is an unthinkable proposition. But like Davis, consider the facts. He’s 37 years old. It’s doubtful he’ll ever reach his current level again. And even when he does, your team is a mess. Not to mention, it’ll be hard to make a play for Bronny James in 2024, considering LA has no real draft capital to work with, which all but ensures the King’s imminent departure.

Realistically, what do the Lakers have to lose? So what if they become the first team to ever trade LeBron James? They’re already the first team to waste his generational talent.

The bottom line comes down to winning games and building a bright future. The Lakers are doing neither. With that, they need to explore every possible avenue for tearing down the monstrosity in place now and starting over.

If you don’t think the Lakers are in need of monumental changes yet, give it a few games

By now, it should seem obvious that the Lakers as currently-constructed are not going to turn things around. But if you’re a “glass-half-full” reader who thinks the Lakers got their wake-up call on Sunday, allow us to rain on your parade.

Out of LA’s remaining 22 games, 14 are on the road. The Purple and Gold are a hideous 9-18 on the road this season. Its next three games are against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, an LA Clippers team it hasn’t beaten since July 2020 in the bubble, and the powerhouse Golden State Warriors. And the Lakers have a whopping 16 games over the next 31 days.

Oh, and Davis is still three weeks away from being re-evaluated on his mid-foot sprain.

Spoiler alert: Their 27-33 record that has them clinging onto the nine-seed for dear life isn’t going to get better. In fact, it’s time to start wondering if they’ll be able to hold their 2.5-game lead for a spot in the play-in round.

Bless your heart if you believe the Lakers can flip the switch and ascend to their rightful place as championship contenders. We commend that level of optimism. But this season is over. And so is the next season, and the one after that, unless massive changes take place.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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