The Los Angeles Lakers currently sit at 2-5 and, while most probably should’ve seen a slow start coming, frustration is still very much present from the perspectives of both fans and players. One main source of that annoyance has been the sense that the Lakers are beating themselves.
JaVale McGee sat down for a Q&A with Zion Olojede of Complex Sports and lent of credence to that sentiment.
Olojede: You recently told the media that the young guys on your team like Kuzma, Ingram, Hart, and Ball are experienced already and the vets aren’t showing them the ropes. With that being said, what is the ceiling of the 2018-19 Lakers team?
McGee: I don’t feel like there is a ceiling. The ceiling is the championship. The only thing that can stop us is us. As long as we’re focused and all on the same page, I don’t see a team stopping us or at least preventing us from getting to the Finals except, of course, the Warriors. We just have to make sure we stay focused through the season. Our mistake margin is a lot smaller than everybody else because we don’t have players on three-year contracts where we have chances to do it again next year. This is the season to do it.
McGee mentioning having everyone on the same page strikes me as a little extra crucial given everything the Lakers have gone through to this point in the still-very-young NBA season. Rajon Rondo has missed three games due to suspension. Brandon Ingram has missed four for the same reason. The Lakers are just now getting Moe Wagner back after he missed months due to injury. Lonzo Ball wasn’t able to go through much of training camp.
With all that having gone on, there was simply no way the Lakers were going to have things figured out at this point. Anyone who’s remained remotely realistic would acknowledge that.
AND YET, if you logged into Twitter after one of the Lakers’ five tough losses, you’d swear people were being hit by pieces of sky as they were firing off their takes. Which brings me back to my central point here: That self-inflicted wounds have been a thorn in the side for the Lakers thus far.
They haven’t been able to defend their own shadows. LeBron James has yet to really maintain the level of play people expected — especially late in games. The team ranks 24th in defensive rebound percentage, meaning that even when they do force a miss, their opponent often rebounds it anyway. These are all things the Lakers can control.
If the Lakers are really going to turn things around, fixing some of that stuff mentioned above is a great place to start. But it’ll take an honest assessment of where they currently stand, an assessment that would involve each individual recognizing what is best for the team.
This is a one-year audition to find out who fits for the remainder of James’ time as a Laker. The Lakers still have single-season goals, but what’s arguably more important for the team is gaining a legitimate understanding of which combinations will work moving forward.
The Lakers could very easily have the opposite of their record right now. It isn’t like they have to improve by leaps and bounds to merely compete. They’re doing that right now. If they can get on the same page as McGee mentions, those single-season goals start to come into frame. If not, well, then the Lakers will find guys who can do what they need next summer.