The Los Angeles Lakers might be done. Sure, they still have 19 games left to play, but 4.5 games back of the eighth seed and coming off of a loss to the Phoenix Suns, this team just doesn’t seem to possess the necessary fight to make a run to the playoffs.
You don’t have to take my word for it either. Just listen to the rest of the team, who sounded completely beaten down after the loss to the Suns. You had Kyle Kuzma saying that there is “something wrong with” the Lakers, while Josh Hart had an... interesting... response when he was asked if this team still believes in each other (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN):
Hart was asked whether Walton’s belief in his team extends to how his teammates believe in one another.
“I mean, we have to,” Hart said. “If we want to get to the goal that we’ve set for ourselves in the season, we have to believe in each other. We have to believe. We have to trust each other. That’s what it comes down to at the end of the day.
That isn’t a “no,” but it’s also not really a “yes,” either. Saying “we have to” trust each other is not the same thing as saying the team does already, and while that could just be Hart’s phrasing, it would appear that from reading between the lines he does not think that the team is doing those things (trusting and believing in each other) if he’s still imploring them to do so.
Hart continued about what he thinks the team can’t keep doing instead of trusting and believing in each other:
”We can’t not pass someone the ball or not make a rotation or get our heads down when something doesn’t go our way. We have to as a unit when adversity starts, we have to come together, and that’s something we have to keep working toward. Like I said, we have the talent, we have the ability, we have the leadership to pile up wins and to make a run for the playoffs, but we have to do that as a collective unit.
”And if we don’t believe in each other, we don’t trust each other, offensively or defensively, we’re going to fail. That’s not how you win. This game is about team, it’s about being selfless, it’s about sacrificing for the next player, and if you can’t do that, you’re not going to find success.”
These quotes are... not great. As noted above, the Lakers have 19 games left in the season, with a 4.5 game deficit to make up if they want to make the playoffs. This is not the time for the team to be building trust in each other. This is the time they should be hitting their stride, if that’s ever going to happen.
It seems less and less likely by the game that they ever will. Yes, they played the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back, but still, a must-win game against arguably the worst team in the entire league requires more energy and heart than the Lakers played with for the majority of the time against Phoenix. Teams that trust and believe in each other don’t get outscored 29-19 in the third quarter of a must-win game by a team that has actively tanked most of this year.
This is what happens when your entire roster is in trade rumors. You can say that the Lakers front office was right to value Anthony Davis over nearly everyone on this team, but this is the human toll on a roster that finds out that they’re all expendable.
Most will take Hart’s comments as directed at the team, and they likely (mostly) were, but it wouldn’t be a surprising if there was a lack of trust for this team’s leadership — including the actively campaigning for Davis LeBron James — and if that’s the case, it’s not a surprise that the team doesn’t want to sacrifice and lay it all on the line when they know they’re all going to be gone this summer anyway.
All this is to say that Hart is right. The Lakers do need to trust and believe in each other. Or at least they did, several games ago. Because they aren’t there yet, he is also right that they’re going to fail. Barring a miracle, this is where the drama and lack of cohesion have put the Lakers. Now we wait until the offseason, and figure out if the roster that’s replacing nearly all of these guys next year can find the chemistry and trust this team lacked.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.