When the Los Angeles Lakers added LeBron James last summer, very few thought they would win a title right away, but most predicted they would at least make the playoffs with the chance to win a round or to.
That did not happen.
But while it’s become fashionable — and not entirely wrong — to peg this roster’s lack of shooting as the main culprit for the team’s struggles, there are other factors that led the Lakers to not live up to expectations. At exit interviews last week, the Lakers pointed to a few of them, from injuries to the all-encompassing trade rumors involving Anthony Davis.
According to Tyson Chandler, there was also one other, simpler factor that went into the Lakers falling flat after a promising start.
“It takes time to win. It takes time to put together the right pieces. I definitely think they have those pieces here, and I thought so from afar,” Chandler said.
Chandler was an early-season addition to the Lakers, and he said that one thing that drew him to his hometown purple and gold after the Phoenix Suns bought him out was that he had liked what he’d seen when he competed against Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma.
“And I feel even better about them after being here. It’s a great group of young men who really understand how to play the game,” Chandler said. “I feel like (they) have big-time potential and are nowhere near even scratching the surface of what they’re capable of.
“We saw some flashes, especially (Ingram) late in the season before he had to step out. I’ve seen some special things from him that I didn’t know that he had, to be quite honest,” Chandler continued, adding that he and fellow veteran point guard Rajon Rondo would regularly sit on the bench and marvel at plays Ingram made towards the end of his season.
“I would go ‘just wait until he gets a little stronger, and that’s going to be every time down the court,’” Chandler said. “They have promising pieces. Now it’s all about what direction they decide to go in.”
Where the Lakers go from here is the central question of their offseason. The team has enough cap space to sign a free agent to a max contract, but they don’t appear to be the top option for any of the best stars on the market. Originally, more attempts to trade for Anthony Davis appeared to be on the horizon as a backup plan, but Brandon Ingram’s health — and to a lesser degree, Lonzo Ball’s — may have complicated that situation even more than it already was.
What their fallback plan would be beyond those options is unknown right now, but with just LeBron James, Moe Wagner, Isaac Bonga, Ball, Ingram, Hart and Kuzma under contract for next season — plus a team option on Jemerrio Jones and an incoming first-round pick — it’s clear that the Lakers will have to bring in quite a few more players to fill out their roster, even if they bring back all the promising young players that Chandler praised.
And if those players do return, Chandler thinks the Lakers should be signing veterans to balance out the team.
“You need veterans in this league. The year I won, we had a ton of vets. The year’s I’ve struggled, it’s typically been on young teams,” Chandler said. “It’s just because you gotta go through it. Young guys need experience to learn to win in this league, because it’s not easy to win in this league.
“I know the team is trying to take the next step, and I know what the goals are around here, so you definitely need at least half the locker room full of older guys.”
Chandler said he’s planning to take a bit of time off after the season, but that he’s talked to his family and does want to play one more year. So if the Lakers need another older guy, he’s one option.
“My daughter will be going into high school, so I want to be there to walk her around campus freshman year,” Chandler said. “Be able to scare little boys away and all that good stuff, so one more year and that will be it.”