Lakers struggles continue as playoffs loom closer

By BRIAN FAUSSETTE
On March 6, 2019

Photo courtesy of TonyTheTiger, Wikipedia

Los Angeles Lakers supporters and sports fans in general had high hopes for the team coming into this season. NBA superstar LeBron James signed with the team and their young core of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram began to show signs of serious growth at the end of last season.

Currently, the Lakers sit at the tenth seed in the Western Conference with a below .500 record. Although they are not yet mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, it certainly seems like their chances are dead.

The Lakers have less than 20 games in the season to turn it around, but their porous defense and lack of shot-making makes it hard to believe they will make some sort of miraculous run into the postseason. ESPN’s powerball index gives the Lakers a 1.2 percent chance to make the playoffs.

Injuries to James and Ball have certainly contributed to this team’s lack of comradery throughout the season. The season seemed to hit a steep decline after their Christmas victory over the Golden State Warriors since James went down late in the game with a groin injury. He would miss the next 18 games and the Lakers would go 6-12 in that stretch.

What should also be considered when discussing the Lakers inferior season is the health of Ball. At the start of the year, Ball was making a name for himself as one of the better defending point guards in the league. He was known for his knack of agitating ball-handlers the whole length of the court.

Ball’s defensive tenacity really set the tone for the rest of the team and his absence in the lineup has been very noticeable on the defensive side of the ball. In the games that Lonzo has been out, the team had the third-worst defensive rating in the league.

When he was in the lineup, the Lakers defensive rating jumped up to the seventh best in the league.

Now that their playoff chances are fading away, many believe the Lakers should rest 34-year old Lebron James for the rest of the season. Adding taxing minutes and the chance of an injury to Lebron’s body would severely hurt the Lakers down the road.

Not only do you want to preserve Lebron’s prime, but you want to remain attractive to upcoming free agent stars such as Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard. After the loss to the Clippers, Lebron was asked about sitting out the rest of the year, and he firmly said that he would only sit out if he was injured.

All in all, this season just seemed like a perfect storm of unfortunate events. Injuries to Ball and James along with the whole debacle about Anthony Davis prior to the trade deadline have caused a disruption to the organization.

This lack of consistency in the starting lineup and diminished team chemistry have made this season one to be forgotten by Lakers fans.

 

bfausset@ramapo.edu

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