When Lebron joined the Lakers, he knew they were an inexperienced, young squad. Now struggling to keep in the playoff race, Lebron is becoming increasingly frustrated at the ineptitude of his teammates. Understandable, but what did you expect to happen just by your arrival?
With 23 games left in the season, the Los Angeles Lakers are 29-30, putting them solidly at 10th place in the Western Conference. For Lebron James, this would be the first time in the last nine years now that he wouldn’t play in the Finals, let alone the playoffs. To be watching playoff basketball and not see the best player in the game seems wrong. But that was the understanding many of us had when Lebron decided to take his talents to “North Beach”.
Prior to Lebron’s arrival, the Lakers finished 35-47 last season, making them 11th in the West. They’re now just barely on pace to beat that record. At 34, Lebron is still averaging 26.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Don’t forget the fact that he’s shooting at 51% from the field. Lebron has only played in 41 games this season and the Lakers definitely struggled and lost more than they won when Lebron didn’t play.
If you look at just the stats, it can be a little perplexing why the Lakers are in this situation. Lebron certainly has help. 2nd year forward, Kyle Kuzma is averaging 19.1 points per game. Brandon Ingram is also chipping in with 17.5 points. Those numbers are great, but when you put them into perspective it makes sense. Kuzma is 23 and Ingram is 21. They have the skill and talent to produce flashy numbers, but they don’t understand yet how to win. They’re young, and highly susceptible to falling into losing behaviors.
LBJ calls his team out
In their first game after the all star break, the Lakers played the Pelicans (without Anthony Davis). They ended up losing 115-128. Defense and turnovers were a huge issue for the Lakers, another indicator of being young and inexperienced. Lebron was so frustrated with the outing, that he called out his young team for being inexperienced and lacking a sense of urgency.
Now, Lebron isn’t wrong. His team is young, his team is inexperienced, and his team does lack a sense of urgency. But what did he expect? He knew all of these things before signing with the Lakers, and even understood that this year would be a throwaway. It seems like LBJ activated Lecoast for most of the season, and now he’s turning it up a notch. This time though, his squad isn’t turning it up with him, because they don’t know how to flip the switch like Lebron does.
One of the problems with this scenario (and with many of Lebron’s team’s in prior years) is that Lebron is the undisputed leader of the team. That’s fine, but when the rest of the team looks up to him as an example, he needs to behave properly. That’s the problem with his casual approach to the regular season – his teammates adopt that mentality.
Now, they still have that mentality and don’t know how to light a fire under themselves. The Lakers only have 23 games to go, and every single one of those counts. Making the playoffs is the goal at this point, but if they can, they should try for 7th place to avoid the Warriors in the first round.
Right now, the Kings are in 9th place at 31-28, but they’re definitely hungry for a playoff bid. Don’t forget that Buddy Hield is so confident they’ll make it, he’d bet his house on it. The Clippers are in 8th place at 33-28, but they likely won’t make it in due to struggling lately after the Tobias Harris trade. That means that the Lakers need to make every game count in order to just make it in to the playoffs. The Lakers next game is against Memphis on Monday, while the Kings play Minnesota. Will the Lakers make it in this year? Only time will tell.