Things aren’t going great for the Los Angeles Lakers right now. After losing to the lowly New York Knicks on Friday, they’re only a game and a half away from falling out of the playoff picture and unfortunately for them, help isn’t on the way.
LeBron James won’t be back with the team for at least another week, Rajon Rondo isn’t expected to return until the beginning of February and it’s unclear if Kyle Kuzma will travel with the team on their upcoming road trip, where they’ll see teams that are much better than the Knicks. Granted, it’s a low bar, but one the Lakers failed to clear on Friday.
Following what was arguably their worst loss of the season, head coach Luke Walton reiterated that the Lakers need to trust each other when things aren’t going their way. However, he took it a step further this time and called on his team to find leadership in the absence of James and Rondo.
“It’s got to come from the group,” Walton said. “We have some of the best leaders in the game. We’ve got LeBron, Rondo and Tyson (Chandler), but they’re hurt so it’s up to other people to step up and lead.
“Guys are doing it, we just have to do more of it,” Walton continued, and he said the problem is that his players aren’t being vocal enough when the team is struggling.
“It’s great when things are going well. The challenge is when we hit dry spells or other teams get hot, that’s when it starts getting quiet,” Walton said. “That’s when we need it the most. That’s when we need five guys huddling up on the court talking about what happened on the last play, what’s going to happen on the next play. Being in the moment of playing.
“That’s something that normally comes with age,” Walton continued. “We’re playing a lot of young guys right now, but that’s where we’re at and we trust and we believe that the guys playing can win. We just have to do it.”
The veterans that the Lakers added in free agency like Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee aren’t generally perceived as leaders, but they have been a stabilizing force in the locker room upon arrival. This call to action was likely more directed towards the team’s young core, specifically Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.
Ball and Ingram are both known for being reserved players on the court, which isn’t a problem on most nights, but in instances where the the Lakers are lacking a vocal leader, their silence is deafening.
Hopefully Ball and Ingram can rise to Walton’s challenge sooner rather than later. Otherwise, the Lakers could be in for a few more nights like Friday.