The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled to find any consistency through the first two months of the 2021-22 campaign. The Lakers have been rocked by injuries and COVID-19 health and safety protocol issues. All that has led star forward LeBron James to struggle to divulge an honest assessment of the team.
Lakers stumble to a third straight loss
The Lakers stumbled to a third straight loss after suffering a disappointing blowout at home against the Phoenix Suns.
Phoenix controlled the game’s tempo, while Los Angeles failed to put forth any offensive consistency beyond LeBron James‘ game-high 34 points. The Lakers shot only 39.1% from the floor while hitting 20% from beyond the arc.
The Suns dominated the third quarter, stretching out the lead to 27 points, comfortably cruised to a lopsided road win. Only two other Lakers scored in double figures outside of James, with Russell Westbrook recording 22 points and Trevor Ariza posting 12 points behind 3-of-3 shooting from 3-point range.
Anthony Davis’ absence resulted in a lack of rim protection while their defense as a whole remained a concerning issue. After the discouraging loss, James delivered a strong statement regarding the state of the team.
LeBron James reveals he Is just as confused about the Lakers as fans are
The Lakers’ 16-16 record through the first 32 games is quite indicative of the team’s status.
James’ brilliance, averaging a team-best 26.4 points in his 19th campaign is keeping them afloat in the playoff picture, but beyond that, it’s remained a mess. The Lakers have dealt with several notable injuries, including James missing 12 games, while the COVID-19 health and safety protocols have rocked the roster.
All that hasn’t allowed a chance for Los Angeles to field a full roster for any extended stretch. After Tuesday’s loss, James voiced that he can’t truly assess his team due to the various factors that have negatively impacted them.
“We have no idea of what this team can be,” James said. “When you have, you know, Trev who, this is his second game back, no K. Nunn. I missed a bunch of games, now AD’s out. A bunch of guys in protocol, our head coach is out, so I can’t really fully assess what we have when we haven’t been whole. I can’t remember the last time we played the same starting lineup or had the same rotation coming off the bench.”
The Lakers can’t catch a break as Davis is expected to miss at least four weeks due to a sprained MCL in his left knee. The 28-year-old will be evaluated in a month, which could see him miss more time. Meanwhile, the last week has seen several key contributors such as Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, and Austin Reaves miss time due to the COVID-19 health and safety protocol.
The various issues haven’t allowed the Lakers to build any essence of on-court cohesion or develop an identity. Instead, Los Angeles is pushing to stay afloat until they have their full roster available. All that leaves James with the tough challenge of leading the charge until the Lakers reach that point.
LeBron James must keep the Lakers afloat
The Lakers are playing far from a team with realistic NBA title aspirations.
However, enough time remains to turn it around with 50 regular-season games left. Davis should be back in the fold a few weeks before the All-Star break, while Russell Westbrook should only garner more comfort playing alongside LeBron James.
Meanwhile, the Lakers will need to lean heavily on the 36-year-old to lead the charge. It’s a tall task for a player in his 19th season, but James has no choice but to shoulder a more significant offensive workload.
Time will tell what will unfold as the next several weeks could feature some rocky moments.