Part of any maturation is an understanding of the presence of a problem. The Los Angeles Lakers have that part down. Few teams are better at calling themselves out than this group, but at some point, one has to wonder if these are becoming empty statements.
After Monday Night’s blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets, the all-too-familiar quotes were coming from the Lakers’ locker room. Refrains of not competing, needing to man up, etc. made their way into gamers and across social media.
The issue, though, is whether they’ve figured out the right thing to say to quell further criticism without actually learning from the mistakes that led to needing to say those things in the first place. There’ obviously no way of knowing this, but after hearing these themes enough, one starts to wonder.
Here’s what Luke Walton had to say after the game, via Mark Medina of the Orange County Register.
“We didn’t as a team and group compete at a certain level,” Walton said. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance. That’s what is frustrating to me. You come out with these opportunities, we have to look to take advantage of it and at least play at a certain level to give us a chance. If a team that outplays us and beats us, we can live it with it and sleep at night. But I didn’t think that was the case tonight.”
Look, the Lakers were playing their second game in two nights in Denver, which is almost always a schedule loss. Add to that Walton taking D’Angelo Russell out of the starting lineup and this game was probably never going to be all that close. All this said, it was pretty evident early on they weren’t particularly intent upon overcoming those circumstances and the game played out as such.
Quotes like the one above and this from Ivica Zubac feel like a weekly occurence:
Ivica Zubac after loss: "All the young guys are playing, we should all be happy to be on the court...We should be ashamed"— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) March 14, 2017
(on @SpectrumSN) pic.twitter.com/Gg3sXSK2eV
At least Zubac performed at a competitive level and as such, could sling a few rocks. In a 28-point blowout, he finished at plus-11 with 25 points and 11 rebounds, the best statistical performance of his young career.
Conversely, here’s this:
As the locker room emptied, D'Angelo Russell took a box score from me, unfolded it, pointed at his minus-32 rating. "That bothers me a lot."— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) March 14, 2017
That type of exchange is great to read about, but Russell on multiple occasions has questioned the fight from himself and his team. At what point does that cross over into a statement for the sake of the statement?
When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me an apology doesn’t mean anything so long as it doesn’t come with a promise to do whatever I could to avoid that mistake again. By those standards, the Lakers have already offered too many empty words.
Monday night, the circumstances were obviously far from ideal, but with how often the Lakers talk about the need to compete consistently, one would hope they’d prioritize showing up in such a game. Until they actually do, expect to hear more of these incomplete concessions.