Former NBA player Channing Frye saw plenty of bad basketball during his 13 NBA seasons while playing for New York, Portland, Phoenix, Orlando, Cleveland (twice), and the Los Angeles Lakers. So, it didn’t take Frye long to know exactly what he saw on Saturday night when analyzing the Lakers/Denver Nuggets game for NBA TV.
According to NBA TV show host Nabil Karim, Frye’s diagnosis of the sleep-walking, checked-out Lakers started long before he went before the TV cameras on Saturday night.
“I’m going to give Channing some props because we were 3-to-4 minutes into the game, and you were like, ‘This might be a blowout,’ and you were right,” Karim said incredulously.
Frye pointed that one didn’t exactly have to be a Hall of Fame analyst at the level of the late John Madden to see that the Lakers and superstar forward LeBron James put little focus — and maybe even less energy — into Saturday’s 136-96 blowout at the hands of Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.
“Oh, you could see it early,” Frye said, referring to the Lakers’ lack of focus and execution. “It’s hard to be that bad. This score? They should have gotten beat by 50.”
Saturday’s 136-96 loss proved to be more embarrassment for the Los Angeles Lakers
How bad was it on Saturday for the Lakers? They were so shoddy on defense that some rookie named Bones Hyland scored 27 points against them. Hyland, whose name sounds like a Dungeons and Dragons character more than an NBA player, scored more points against the Lakers than he did in the three games prior.
The Lakers were so bad that Denver carved them up for 51.6% shooting, and Jokic needed just 28 minutes to register a triple-double. LA was so porous defensively that Jeff Green made 10 of his 14 shots — seven of which were dunks by Frye’s estimation.
“I’ve seen some bad basketball, and this was probably one of the worst games I’ve seen from a team that has good players on it,” Frye said on NBA TV. “The communication wasn’t good, and the body language was bad.”
Here is, quite possibly, the most damning part for the Lakers: They had played just one game in the previous five days, so fatigue shouldn’t have been an excuse. Also, having played 25 home games, the Lakers have already been through the easiest portion of their schedule and the grind of the marathon-like season is still to come.
The LA Lakers were downright offensive when it came to their lack of defense against Denver
The LA Lakers were so checked-out defensively they didn’t even recognize good coverage when they saw it from the Nuggets. When Russell Westbrook’s repeated bully-ball tactics to get to the rim got thwarted by Aaron Gordon, the Lakers’ point guard sprang up off the floor and confronted the Denver defensive ace.
As it turns out, that was as much fight as the Lakers would put up all night. it was the latest in a series of antics that have some wondering if the Lakers should cut their losses and trade the former MVP.
“We’ve just got to make a decision we’re going to play hard,” said Westbrook during his postgame news conference. “Sometimes, the schemes and how you play, it doesn’t really matter. You’ve just got to play hard sometimes. Teams are playing harder than us, so it’s as simple as that.”
The issue is defense and the Lakers’ unwillingness to play it consistently — even with former defensive standouts Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, and LeBron James on the floor. They headed into Monday’s game in Utah ranked 27th in the league in points allowed (113.3) and 15th in field goal percentage allowed (45.2%), and 3-point shooting allowed (34.7%). At this point, the only things the Lakers apparently lead the league in are team meetings and look-yourself-in-the-mirror directives.
“We’ve got to get back to the drawing board and get our defense right,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said in his postgame news conference. “We haven’t performed well enough in the last two games on that side of the ball.”
LeBron James appears to be reaching his boiling point with this flawed Lakers roster
Saturday’s 37-point defeat was the second largest of LeBron James’ illustrious career, trailing only a 42-point hammering at the hands of the Indiana Pacers in 2019. Also, this statistical nugget has to be irking James now: With LA’s 21-22 start to the season, it was the first time a LeBron James team has been under .500 through 43 games since the future Hall of Famer’s rookie season of 2003-04.
Things were so bad on Saturday that James not only refused to speak to the media following the loss, but he issued an apology a day later on Twitter.
“I apologize and I promise we’ll be better,” James tweeted.
James, like Vogel, Westbrook and, even Channing Frye, likely realizes the Lakers can’t be serious championship contenders. Sure, the imminent return of Anthony Davis will help the team on both ends of the floor. However, LA does not have the athleticism, defensive grit, or youthful vigor to seriously compete in the rugged Western Conference. Just as the Lakers miscalculated in James’ first season in LA and didn’t have enough shooting around him, this time GM Rob Pelinka erred badly in trading for the divisive Westbrook and acquiring too many aging players near the end of their careers.
Saturday’s lopsided loss triggered far too many red flags about this Lakers team, and Frye thinks they will continue to be an issue from the sound of it. At this point, the Lakers have more questions than answers on both sides of the ball, and they might be lucky to make the playoffs this spring.
“The Lakers, in this (Denver) game and this game alone, they were so undisciplined,” Frye noted. “They were double-teaming for no reason, they were not rotating, guys weren’t communicating, and they were making poor decisions.
“There was no passion and energy from the Lakers in this game, which I find upsetting as a basketball player because this was an opportunity to get better and compete.”
Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.