The Los Angeles Lakers have issues. This much is clear, both from the reality that they’re currently 4.5 games out of the playoffs with just 19 games left to play, and the fact that they keep losing to teams like the Phoenix Suns, who got their 13th win of the season against the Lakers in a game the latter team positively needed.
In fact, at this point, it’s probably fair to point to things beyond the Lakers’ generalized issues as being to blame for where they currently sit. The way they’ve fallen apart on defense — the end of the floor where communication is most key — would seem to be evidence of something more specific, the dreaded “trust issues” all NBA team’s want to avoid.
Reading between the lines and watching them play made it fairly obvious this is the case for the Lakers, but if you needed to hear directly from the mouth of a player, Kyle Kuzma told Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times that the Lakers “obviously” have a trust problem (we already extensively covered Hart’s comments, if you want more on those):
I asked Kyle Kuzma if there’s a trust problem on the team. “Obviously, just because we’re losing to teams we shouldn’t lose to,” he said. “We lost to every bad team in the league.”— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) March 3, 2019
I asked Josh Hart if the team believes in each other pic.twitter.com/BgckVExnfV
Kuzma is right about that last part. The Lakers are 14-8 against teams below .500 after their loss to the Suns, and 6-4 against the bottom-five teams in the league. As we’ve noted before, that’s above .500, but not to the degree that a playoff hopeful should be against the worst teams in the league.
At the pace the Lakers are playing at, their record against the dregs of the NBA is unlikely to be what keeps them from the playoffs — they’re probably going to miss the postseason based on more than just their losses to the worst teams at this rate — but those losses are indicative of deeper issues that are probably a big part of why this team was never able to gel for any extended period of time.
It’s probably too late for the Lakers to fix these problems, too. All the organization can do is take a look at what led to such a lack of trust — whether it was all the one-year contracts, coaching, the trade deadline or other factors we don’t know about — and try to build a team that won’t be so prone to them next season.
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.