The Los Angeles Lakers continue to free fall in the Western Conference standings amid another discouraging stretch. The outside doubt and criticism grow louder as Los Angeles’ struggles persist. After the Christmas Day loss to the Brooklyn Nets, LeBron James firmly defended his teammate Russell Westbrook.
Lakers continue to stumble south
After a busy off-season, the Lakers entered the 2021-22 campaign with plenty of hype.
However, it hasn’t translated to consistent success as Los Angeles’ five-game skid has pushed them below the .500 mark, sitting at a 16-18 record through the first 34 games. Various factors have pushed them toward the concerning path, drumming up doubt whether they can vie for the playoffs, let alone championship contention.
After Los Angeles fell to another disappointing loss, James voiced strong support for Westbrook.
LeBron James sticks his neck out to vehemently defend Russell Westbrook
The Lakers’ continued struggles have led to criticism directed toward the roster construction.
With Davis out for at least a month, it’s shifted attention on Russell Westbrook’s performance as he’s stepped into the second scoring option behind LeBron James. Westbrook is becoming more comfortable in his role, but it hasn’t translated in Los Angeles finding more traction in the standings.
After the star point guard recorded his sixth triple-double effort of the season, James backed teammate.
“He gave us extra possessions, he gave us a lot of looks around the basket, which I know that he can’t stand [failing to convert] as well,” James said via The New York Post. “But as far as the effort piece, if a guy plays hard, if a guy leaves it all out on the floor, I got no problem with that. It’s a make-or-miss league.”
In Westbrook’s first campaign with the Lakers, his decision-making hasn’t been the sharpest, but that comes with the adjustment period. He’s currently second in the league with 4.6 turnovers per contest, but his scoring efficiency has improved. However, he’s struggled with consistency shooting from 3-point range (30.4%).
Westbrook is a strong factor with his passing, while his effort on the glass creates extra offensive possessions. The 33-year-old occasionally struggles to find his shot, but it’s the other elements that James admires. He’s currently sixth in the league with 8.1 assists per contest while tallying 10 games with double-digit assists.
Ultimately, Westbrook must hone in to become an extremely reliable scoring factor alongside James and Davis if the Lakers hope to do more than grab a playoff spot.
The clock is ticking on the Lakers
Although the Lakers remain in the backend of the Western Conference playoff picture, their play doesn’t scream even being a tough out in the postseason.
It’s a fair argument that Los Angeles hasn’t had the opportunity to find its identity due to injuries and COVID-19 issues. According to NBA.com, their big three of James, Davis, and Westbrook have only played 15 games together, holding an 8-7 record. Meanwhile, the bulk of their roster has missed time due to the health and safety protocol.
Due to those factors, the lack of cohesion and roster influx hasn’t allowed the Lakers to find the appropriate lineup combinations and on-court chemistry. All that has only amplified their defensive struggles, ranking 27th allowing 112.3 points per contest.
These aspects have negatively impacted them, but there will be a point where there won’t’ be enough time to figure it out. The clock is ticking, putting more pressure on the Lakers to more than right the ship with Davis sidelined.