Sound the alarm on the Lakers

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Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

Who are the Lakers, two games into the season? The crappy Lakers have become a national punchline. This is a bad Lakers team, most tellingly. This iteration of the Lakers is horrendous. They’re pretty stinky. To be clear, the season is over before it even starts. The path to the NBA Finals — particularly after a daunting 103-97 loss to the Clippers Thursday night — seems out of reach. 

Dogged by the little brothers, daunted by the continuing shooting woes, the troubled, tormented Lakers are bracing themselves for another down year. Playing with minimum effort and jacking up ill-advised jumpers give off vibes of misery and obscurity, rather than confidence and buoyancy. It was a poor showing, across the board, against the Clippers. Misfortunes, bad execution, poor shooting, a lack of cohesion — best summed up the night. Anyone with a brain knew the Lakers’ season was doomed from the start. And for the delusional fans who say we shouldn’t rule them out of playoff contention, believing that this team can compete with structured franchises is asinine. 

It’s not too early to panic about the Lakers after a slow start. For now, though, fans are left wondering where they go from here to improve the roster, and how in the world do they get rid of one of their star players. Doubts should start creeping into the minds of fans. Facing a relentless barrage of criticism amid an 0-2 start, the Lakers are basically burying themselves alive. The shortcomings provide a bleak view of what the season will look like. Let’s be honest: There has been a lot of bad this season, and it could only get worse before it gets any better. Let’s not kid ourselves: They’re terrible. They’re in a very bad place right, not able to patchwork their way to a win. 

The many wounds had not been healed. Things look dire, with no hope in sight, as the Lakers have shown no signs of change. The question is now who do the Lakers won’t to be? The obvious answer is losers. The belief, which is uncontested, is that the Fakers, not the Lakers, don’t even strike fear into opposing teams. More than a minor adjustment is needed. A full rebuild is a major requisite for team success. Of course, the people in the front office didn’t help themselves with some of the choices they made. 

It is Darvin Ham, this season’s Lakers head coach, who has accepted a challenging role and walked into a dumpster fire. Moreover, the guy stalking the sideline last season, Frank Vogel was the fall guy. Please forgive me, Frank. It wasn’t your fault. This is the same team that couldn’t win last year because of its lack of urgency, its inefficient shooting and its inability to shed bad habits. Really, though, what else is to say at this point. The Lakers just aren’t very good and, although they have plenty of star power, big-name players on one team and a new coach, they’re old as dirt, they’re hot trash, they’re garbage. What it has become was what it was destined to be: An apocalypse. For them, it has to be alarming. This is exactly what any unbiased fan could have envisioned. The predictable catastrophe prompts a greater unmitigated disaster than last season’s debacle.

The Lakers are bad. They are very bad. The Warriors and the Clippers are who the Lakers think they are. It’s the sad truth. Worst of all, the two losses on the season serve as reminder that this could be another botched season for the Lakers as they take another wrong turn. The doubt around the league is so intense, it is doubtful the Lakers even make the play-in tournament simply because they have nobody who can shoot and put the ball in the hole. Above all, they were never, ever a team to worry about coming into this season. What you notice, more than anything, is a fatal flaw in the Lakers relative lack of perimeter shooting. The missed shots have been a recipe for disaster. Their terrible shot selection has put their season in peril. 

There is, of course, an embattled Russell Westbrook, front and center. It was a rough showing for the Lakers as a whole, but it was especially a horrible night for Westbrook. In the immediate aftermath of their defeat, he was an easy target to criticize and mainly because he was never the guy who fit best in the Lakers offense. And, believe it or not, he missed all 11 of his shots, scoring just two points versus the Clippers. It should be said, too, that Westbrook has not had a positive effect on the Lakers. Since joining the team, he went from a triple-double machine to a turnover machine. Unacceptable.

He’s not a shooter, he’s polarizing, and he’s not the type of player to alter his style of play to fit in. There has not been any stylistic changes from him. The overwhelming noise surrounding him is he continuously take shots that end up clanking off the rim, hitting the side of the backboard, or missing the rim and backboard entirely and bouncing out of bounds. The biggest gap in his game is his poor shot. The Lakers bet on a player who messed with team chemistry, destroyed team morale, acquiring him in a trade from Washington and experimenting with the guard. It was the path chosen by Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, or whoever is running the show behind the scenes. It turns out it was an epic fail.

Their No. 1 star is LeBron James. First, and most obvious, Father Time is knocking on the door and the 37-year-old is competing against it. He’s tasked with finding ways to score points everywhere on the floor, but he’s settling for more jump shots. Sure, he’s scoring at the same clip. Sure, he’s lacing up his shoes, he’s playing valuable minutes, and he’s facilitating for others. But he’s not raising the level of those around him. Still, it’s ludicrous for anyone to say he doesn’t have it anymore when he’s a guy who has given the team everything he’s got thus far. He somewhat — to be fair — leverages stability, unity and, also, credibility. James, now in his 20th season in the NBA, can be a leader for positive change. With that in mind, he can help foster the mental growth and rebuild the confidence of those around him. It’s his will to win. It’s his competitive juice. It’s his durability. But for the Lakers, that’s not where the focus lies.

Nobody wants to revisit how brutal last season was for the Lakers. This team lost 49 games a season ago, finished 11th in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs. It’s not startling to see the Lakers, of all teams, play very lethargic, lackadaisical basketball, leading to another night of cold shooting. It’s embarrassing. It’s hard to watch. They have a bunch of guys who can build a house with all those brick shots. Now might be the perfect time for the Lakers to disappear and not show their faces around here. There are a lot of sad faces around the organization. The losses and distractions are starting to mount for the Lakers. 

It’s less than a week into the regular-season, and the Lakers look lost while they try to forge an identity and find themselves. It shouldn’t be forgotten how unorganized, uninspired and disappointing the Lakers were last season. And now this wholly unsuccessful start to what is shaping up to be a long, trying season for the Lakers, when they looked outclassed by the Clippers. On a night where they lacked continuity and efficiency, it’s almost fair to questioned if their shooting woes are growing problems that the Lakers need to solve quickly. 

The game seemed to turn when the Lakers roared back and even grabbed a fourth-quarter lead. But instead of holding onto a lead that was short lived, the Lakers couldn’t secure what would have been their first win of the season. In the late stretches of this game, they had a bevy of guys who missed shots, which won’t help them from night to night. Kendrick Nunn, Patrick Beverley and Westbrook combined to make just one of 25 shots. Terrible, terrible shooting. 

All the while, six Clippers scored at least 11, including 15 for John Wall and 14 for Kawhi Leonard. Despite holding a big lead, the Clippers squandered a 16-point lead as the Lakers forced a slew of turnovers and erased the deficit. Even with the shooting difficulties and free-throw discrepancy, they were contesting shots, causing deflections, getting steals and grabbing rebounds. Perhaps the offense strays away from the paint and relies more heavily on the three-point shot.

This team, believe it or not, discovered an inventive way to lose a basketball game. They’re stacking up Ls. The way this turns around is if the Lakers get in the gym, practice their jumpers, focus on their game a little bit more and then master the art of shooting. Not even a week into the start of the 2022 season, and the new season already brings bad vibes and negative juju. This season, by observation, has the makings of a disastrous end that will likely live in infamy. In the grand scheme of things, this is the beginning of the end for the Lakers, whether or not they know it.

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Jonathan Mathis as known as The Sports Judge is the founder of SoCalChronicle. He is a professional Sports writer, contributor, Youtuber, podcaster @ ASAP Network, and co-host of Gonzo & The Judge Sports Talk. Follow the [email protected] https://twitter.com/Sportsjudge85

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