There’s no sugarcoating the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers haven’t looked great to start the 2022-23 NBA season. And that’s about the nicest way to put that.
Given the strength of the Western Conference, most are saying the Lakers have no chance to contend for championship No. 18, which could very well be true given their ongoing shooting woes.
Outside of James and Anthony Davis, who’s playing fantastic basketball, the only Laker who’s taken at least 15 shots and made 45% of them is Austin Reaves, who’s also the only guy playing more than 10 minutes a night shooting the ball well from beyond the arc.
With all due respect to Reaves, who was a First-Team All-Big 12 selection as a senior at Oklahoma, LeBron isn’t getting ring No. 5 if that’s where some of his biggest help is coming from. However, getting that kind of assistance off the bench is nice, which is why Reaves is there in the first place.
But Russell Westbrook has to be better. Once again, that’s about the nicest way to put it. Patrick Beverley has to be better. James and AD could win by themselves in the bubble, but that’s not going to work with a full NBA slate.
The good news is that the season is still very young. So there is time for the Lakers as a whole to work some things out. And if LeBron needs some comfort during this trying time, he can look at Michael Jordan’s first title-winning Chicago Bulls squad and know that a rough start can be overcome.
LeBron James can look to Michael Jordan’s 1990-91 Bulls for comfort as the Lakers attempt to get back on track
While Michael Jordan’s first championship team didn’t go 0-4, it did go 0-3.
Coming off a second straight loss to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Chicago Bulls got off to a rocky start to kick off the 1990-91 campaign.
On opening night, they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, who got 37 points and 10 boards from Charles Barkley in a 124-116 win. In game two, Chicago fell to the Washington Bullets, who got 44 points from Bernard King in a 103-102 win. And in game three, the Bulls were beaten by the Boston Celtics, 110-108, as Larry Bird hit 11 of 16 shots for 24 points.
Now, I know what some of you might be thinking. The Bulls were competitive in those games where LeBron James and the Lakers really haven’t been. And that’s true. But Michael Jordan himself would tell you that a loss is a loss. And don’t pretend he wouldn’t because you know that’s true.
Like Jordan, who averaged 31.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists in those three losses, James has played well for the Lakers in their four defeats, averaging 25.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 7.8 assists.
As a whole, the Bulls didn’t shoot nearly as poorly as the Lakers have in their winless start. Chicago shot 46.7% in its three losses, while LA has shot 41.6%. The biggest problem for the Lakers is from the three-point line. And it’s not just the ones they’re missing. It’s how many they’re taking.
Of the Lakers’ 370 shot attempts through four games, 148 have come from beyond the arc. And they’ve only made 33 of them, which equates to a dreadful 22.3%. The Bulls were precisely 10 percentage points better at 33.3%. But the difference is they took a total of 18 three-pointers in those three games.
LA took 30 shots from deep on Wednesday night alone, and LeBron alone has taken 35 through four games, making just nine of them.
Inside the three-point line, the Lakers are just fine, making shots at a 54.5% clip. So perhaps they could benefit from a little more old-school basketball than just firing away. I know the game has changed, but this strategy clearly isn’t working. A pump fake and taking a couple of steps in never hurt anyone.
Michael Jordan and the Bulls finally broke through with a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, went 61-21, and marched to their first of six titles in the ’90s.
Up next for LeBron James and the Lakers? A Friday night date with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
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