The Los Angeles Lakers are nosediving nearly out of the playoff picture despite LeBron James‘ continued offensive brilliance. The Lakers suffered another disappointing loss, falling to a rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers squad without Damian Lillard.
Los Angeles has reached a breaking point that no trade deadline move will resolve their deeply-rooted issues. Beyond that, the four-time league MVP just expressed comments that should force the Lakers to act fast.
Lakers fall to crushing loss against the Blazers
If Tuesday’s blowout loss to the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks didn’t raise red flags, the crushing defeat on the road to the Blazers certainly did.
Despite Portland fielding an almost entirely different starting lineup due to notable trades and Damian Lillard’s injury, Los Angeles performed like they were the gutted team.
Their lackluster hustle and effort didn’t let them put together any fluidity. Portland completely outworked them, holding a 58-40 edge in points in the paint, and recorded 28 points on the Lakers’ 21 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Anthony Davis surprisingly chose not to take a field goal in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles demonstrated no genuine desire to get back on track, instead fell to their sixth loss in the last eight games.
The Lakers had nothing positive beyond LeBron James extending his scoring streak with at least 25 points in 21 straight contests. After the game, the four-time league MVP’s remarks said all that fans needed to know.
LeBron James’ remarks about his health should draw concern from the Lakers
The Lakers falling to another disappointing loss has become the discouraging norm, but James’ telling comments after games should draw concern.
The 37-year-old has become worn down from the frustratingly inconsistent nature of his team. After Wednesday’s loss, James spoke genuinely from the heart, voicing his physical exhaustion.
“Literally just — I’m tired as hell right now,” James said via ESPN. “I just want to get some wine and get up tomorrow. I feel good about what tomorrow has in store, and we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens as far as the deadline, but other than that, I’m kind of just focused on what we can do to be better.”
Although it’s normal for a player to express that notion following the second game of a back-to-back set, James’ comments speak to much more. He’s still performing at an elite level in his 19th year, averaging 29.1 points while extending his NBA record streak of at least 25 points scored to 21 consecutive contests for a player in year 15 or beyond.
His stellar performances are wasted on a team that doesn’t hold realistic NBA title hopes. James may be adding to his illustrious legacy, but that isn’t coupled with sustained team success.
The Lakers’ ongoing struggles have led him to express uncertainty about whether the team can turn it around, and more importantly, underline his physical wear and tear. While James is still performing at a high level, injuries are a significant factor, forcing him to miss 17 games this season.
In his first four years with the Lakers, he’s been sidelined for 68 games. In contrast, he sat out only 27 games during the four-year stint in his second Cleveland Cavaliers’ tenure. That includes playing all 82 regular-season games in the 2017-18 campaign, marking the first time he accomplished that feat.
James remains an ageless wonder that can shoulder a significant workload. Still, if the Lakers want to maximize his talent, James’ comments about his health should shift the franchise into high gear toward figuring out the roster around him.
The Lakers’ problems are more than Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook has shouldered the bulk of the blame for the Lakers’ shortcomings.
Westbrook certainly hasn’t fit smoothly next to James or Anthony Davis, but the team’s problems are much more profound. Los Angeles is far from the squad defensively they showed in the first two seasons under head coach Frank Vogel.
The Lakers previously experienced sustained success behind their play defensively, but that identity has become a central weak point. Los Angeles ranks 27th giving up 112.5 points per contest, and second-worst allowing 25.9 assists per game.
Their issues defensively shouldn’t be surprising after the front office pieced together the roster primarily through veteran minimum contracts. Meanwhile, Davis missing 21 games left the Lakers without their primary rip protector.
The front office will attempt to improve the roster before the trade deadline, but the franchise already made its bed. In other words, it’s too little too late.