So this is rock bottom, or so the Los Angeles Lakers hope. Having lost home games to two of the league’s worst teams in the last week or so, things can’t possible get any worse, can they? They can, and almost certainly will for head coach Luke Walton if they lose to the Chicago Bulls Tuesday night.
Following Sunday night’s stinker, Walton addressed the media to summarize what on earth had just happened.
“Frustrating loss. We’ve got to play better, we’ve got to make free-throws,” Walton told reporters before taking questions. “I believe this group will start playing better and start winning games. But as a team we’ve got to step up and go and take some of these games. We had plenty of chances tonight to get back over the hump but we just didn’t do it. As a group we’ve just got to be better.”
Right from the start, it was pretty clear last night’s game was going to be annoying at the very least and could advance beyond that stage pretty easily. The Lakers came out flat, threw a few punches to get back into it, but it always felt like the kind of game the Lakers could not or would not ever take full command over. After all, they were playing the reigning Eastern Conference Champions.
Walton concluded that the issue once again was consistency.
”I thought the effort was there, I thought the guys were playing hard. We had some nice possessions where the ball was swinging around," Walton said. "Just didn’t do enough to win.”
Then, when asked about the vibe in the locker room and what the frustration level might be, Walton didn’t hold back.
“Hopefully it’s pretty high. That’s a game that we knew was important to us," Walton said. "It should be pretty high, and hopefully that’s an anger and edge that stays with us for the next two days."
Whenever you hear a coach say that their team should be frustrated, this is typically a demand for a showing of pride. The Lakers had a job to do with LeBron James out: Just tread water against one of the easier stretches of the season so that there isn’t a hole to dig out of once he comes back. They failed to do so and the ripple effect might be immense.
Still, Walton has faith in his team.
“I see them every day. I see the way they work. I’ve seen who we can be. We had two big wins last week. When we were actually healthy we went on the road and beat the defending champs. We’ve had bad times, but I know what this group is capable of. When you see that you believe in it. When you see it once you know it can be repeated,” Walton said.
The Lakers have to find a balance between the frustration Walton hoped for and the faith in the team he maintains. There isn’t time to get too down on themselves, but they should know and recognize the opportunity they’ve squandered. Walton thinks they can turn things around. If they don’t, changes are coming.