The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of their best start since the 2008-09 season, with a league-best 21-3 record to go with their also-league-best 11-1 record on the road. But, like all things with the Lakers, the internet has decided there has to be some divine reason beyond their play as to why they’re doing so well, and it seems the critique the team’s detractors have settled on is the Lakers’ strength of their schedule, or lack thereof.
And to be fair, that wasn’t a completely invalid point initially. Through the first two months of the season, the Lakers played just five teams that currently have a .500 record. In those games, they went 3-2, with losses to the LA Clippers and Toronto Raptors. Then, on the first day of December, they lost to the Dallas Mavericks, which is when the flood gates for criticism opened up even though that loss ended a 10-game winning streak for the Lakers, and had beaten the Mavericks on the road earlier in the season.
Since then, the Lakers have won their last four straight, including a back-to-back against the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets — the latter of whom is the third-best team in the Western Conference. During a recent interview with ESPN, Kuzma talked about the noise surrounding the team’s schedule, and how the locker room has dealt with it on and off the floor:
“I mean, who do we have to play? I mean, we had road games. Went to Dallas, played Dallas at home, San Antonio’s not easy to win at, Miami coming in (as a) top-three team in the East. It kind of is what it is, you know? When you’re a Laker, everybody’s going to say something about you and, you know, we like it. We hear it, but we just go about business and smile and get Ws.
“I didn’t even mention Denver and Utah ... That’s the toughest back-to-back road trip you can kind of have just because of the altitude, and Denver probably has the best home record of the past 20-25 years. And then (we go) to Utah and that rowdy crowd. It’s not easy and for us to do that in the manner we did — played it tight in Denver and opened the flood gates a little in Utah — it was pretty big time for us.”
The fact of the matter is the Lakers are good, if not great. There might be teams just as great as them — most notably the Milwaukee Bucks — but to say they’ve won 21 games this season because of a soft schedule is flat-out ignorant when four games separate them and the second-best team in the Western Conference, the LA Clippers, who — for those wondering — have played 14 games against teams below .500 and have lost four of them.
If people don’t know by now that the Lakers are legitimate title contenders, it’s because they’re making a conscious effort to believe they’re not. But don’t worry, with the Miami Heat, Bucks and Clippers all on this month’s schedule, they’ll know soon enough.