The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2021-22 NBA season with a championship-or-bust mentality, and they weren’t the only ones with that opinion. Before the season started, sportsbooks around the world pegged the Lakers as either the favorites or the second-biggest favorites behind the Brooklyn Nets to win the title in 2022.
But with a losing record through 55 games, LA is more worried about simply making the play-in tournament than gunning for a championship.
After the Lakers’ blowout loss to the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night, LeBron James got brutally honest about the state of the team and signaled the need for a season-saving move before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.
Lakers hit new low in embarrassing loss to Bucks
Seemingly every time the Lakers suffer their worst loss of the season, another one comes around a few days later. After Tuesday night’s 131-116 loss to the Bucks, we officially have a new contender.
The final score doesn’t even indicate how lopsided the game was from start to finish. Milwaukee shot nearly 70% from the field in the first half and put up 78 points on LA’s helpless defense. As the Bucks started to build up their 30-point lead in the third quarter, players started dancing on the floor as if they were messing around in a scrimmage.
If anything else, the embarrassing loss served as an indictment of what this Lakers team really is. They’re closer to a joke than they are a title contender in 2022, and their 26-29 record proves it.
With the NBA trade deadline quickly approaching, LeBron delivered a grim reality check that could force LA to make a panic move in the coming hours.
LeBron James delivers brutally honest assessment of the drowning Lakers
After getting punked on their home court by the defending champions on Tuesday night, the Lakers were understandably down in the dumps. James looked visibly frustrated in his postgame press conference alongside Anthony Davis, and when a reporter asked him what the loss to the Bucks says about the team, he didn’t hold back.
“Yeah. It tells me we ain’t on their level,” James said. “I mean, I probably could have told you that before the game started.”
The reporter followed up by asking if the Lakers can reach that level this year.
“Where they are right now? I don’t know,” he admitted. “Do I think we can reach the level where Milwaukee is right now? Um, no. Is that what you wanted to hear? No.
“I would hope so, but right now, no,” he continued. “We can’t get to where they are right now. I mean, they’re the defending champions for a reason. I guarantee if you would’ve asked teams coming out of the bubble if they could get to the level that we were playing at when we won a championship, they would say the same thing.”
Your move, Rob Pelinka.
Expect a panic trade before the NBA trade deadline
The Lakers simply can’t afford to punt on the 2021-22 season. LeBron is 37, and even though he’s the most durable superstar the NBA has ever seen, there’s no telling how many peak years he has left in him.
And seeing as this Lakers team won’t sniff a championship this season as currently constructed, they might be forced to execute a panic move by Thursday afternoon.
The most intriguing option for LA would be to give up on its Russell Westbrook experiment and flip him for a capable starter, but his $47 million cap hit for next season makes that nearly impossible. Even aside from Westbrook, the Lakers don’t have much trade ammo to work with this week. Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and Malik Monk could make for a decent package, but that most likely won’t bring back the difference-maker they need.
The Lakers aren’t contenders with this current roster, and LeBron knows it. Don’t expect LA to go down quietly at this year’s NBA trade deadline.