Lake Show Was a No Show
History repeats itself. That has always rung true. In the case of the Los Angeles Lakers this season, that is very true with a twist.
In 2004 the Lakers picked up aging stars Karl Malone and Gary Payton to put alongside the legendary duo of Shaq and Kobe. The Lakers had already won a few championships behind the one-two punch of Shaq and Kobe, so adding all-time greats like Malone and Payton would bring them more. Or so they thought. The Lakers would end their season by falling in five games to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA finals.
Fast forward 18 years, the Lakers found themselves doing the same thing to a lesser degree. The Lakers picked up aging stars Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony with hopes of making a championship run. The Lake Show has already won a championship behind the leadership of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. So of course the Lakers' front office believed that adding Westbrook and Melo to the mix would give them another Larry O'Brien trophy. Thing is, this team didn't even make the playoffs. Forget about losing in the finals, the Lakers didn't even make the playoffs this season.
The struggles in LA can be attributed to many things. It's hard to just blame one player or one party. A myriad of factors contributed to this failure of a season. Where do we begin?
The past two seasons for LeBron and AD have been plagued with injuries. It's no surprise that AD has had nagging injuries. The real shock came when LeBron went down this season with multiple injuries. The player that everyone was so used to being indestructible has been showing signs of aging, and it hurt the Lakers this season. With LeBron and AD missing 26 and 42 games respectively; it shouldn't be a surprise that the Lakers struggled to get something going for much of the season. Go ahead and sit the two best players on any team. A struggle will follow. It's simple cause and effect.
The health of the Lakers carries much of the burden for what this season turned into. Not having Davis' presence down low on the offensive and defensive end really hurt them. LeBron spending 26 games in street clothes meant that the Lakers were missing their best passer and scorer. Injuries hurt the team's chemistry and with no chemistry, there are no wins. Literally cause and effect.
The problem with these teams being put together overnight is that the process of developing chemistry is rushed. No matter what people say, chemistry and familiarity are crucial to creating a winning environment. This is especially true in the NBA, where the world's best players lace up and play night in and night out. Whenever the Lakers played it was clear that not everyone on the court was on the same page. The Lakers rebuilt the team around LeBron and AD after letting the likes of Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Alex Carusso, and Kyle Kuzma go. Instead, their front office decided to go for talent and neglect the importance of players needing time to ingratiate themselves with each other.
The last time I checked, chemistry is not created overnight. That goes for everything in life, so why did the Lakers believe they were the exception? I wish I knew.
Today's game is all about spacing. It is proven that the teams with the best spacing often have an easy time scoring the ball. Spacing allows for there to be a free-flowing offense. An unclogged paint grants players an easy attack on late close-outs, dribble penetrate, and even get the space to break down defenders and create for themselves in some cases. The Lakers this season had little to no spacing.
The absence of shooters Caldwell Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Wesley Matthews, and Ben McLemore was overlooked. Looking back on it, the Lakers are wishing they kept one or two of those guys, but hindsight is 20/20. With the NBA season over Rob Pelinka and Jeanie Buss should go back to the drawing board and figure out how they can surround LeBron James with some shooters. On paper, this squad looked like championship contenders. The thing is this game isn't played on paper. This isn't NBA 2k where you just assemble a team full of stars and simulate your way to a championship.
Outlook for the Future
After a failed season, the Lakers have begun making some changes to turn things around. Their first move was to fire Frank Vogel and hire former Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach, Darvin Ham. Ham's connection to the NBA goes all the way back. Believe it or not, he was a part of the Detroit Pistons team that defeated the Lakers squad containing Kobe, Shaq, Gary Payton, and Malone in 2004. Now he is taking over the Lakers locker room with hopes of championship contention.
Outside the acquisition of Darvin Ham, everything else remains the same; for now. With the free-agent market opening up, we will have to wait and see what's to come from this roster. Westbrook remains on the team amid all of the trade rumors that surround his name. Darvin Ham even included Westbrook in his future plans for the team. Right now, there is no telling what the Lakers will do. All there is to say is that they are one of the most disappointing teams in NBA history.
The bar was set at the beginning of the season for the Los Angeles Laker. Championship contention is what everyone expected, but an early offseason is what the Lake show gave us.