Several hours before tip-off against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night, my colleague and Lakers blogfather Darius Soriano wrote a better recap of this loss than I could, even after having watched every ugly minute of it.
I’m going to be honest, I do not expect the Lakers to win a game over the next week (or more) while LeBron James is out. With Bron joining THT, Ariza, and Nunn in street clothes, the Lakers do not have enough forwards or ball handling to trot out lineups you should expect to have success over the course of a 48 minute game. Are there two or three groups? Yes. Are there the five or six you actually need? Not even close.
That is even more true when Anthony Davis was limited by a stomach illness and thumb sprain to just seven ineffective minutes before sitting out for the rest of the night. In a surprise to absolutely no one, the Lakers eventually lost — for basically the exact reasons Darius predicted — by a final score of 105-90.
There are genuine points for criticism in what led this group to be 5-5 at this point. Anyone watching this team could legitimately find fault in any or all of the following aspects of this team:
- The imperfect roster constructed by Rob Pelinka and his two stars that features almost zero wing depth but approximately 19 small guards and two aging, traditional centers.
- Frank Vogel, who has not done himself any favors in the way he’s used many of the randomly mish-mashed and haphazardly put together remaining pieces.
- Russell Westbrook, who has not fit in alongside his co-stars as well as some might have hoped, or been able to lift this team in the way the organization hoped for when those stars were hurt.
But even if one wholeheartedly believes ALL of those criticisms, the reality is that, as Darius pointed out, no team could ever reasonably be expected to withstand THIS. Without Davis, James, Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn, Westbrook was the only Laker who played tonight who is making more than Luol Deng’s cap hold this season.
Now, Westbrook was truly, almost staggeringly horrible on Saturday night — finishing with 8 points on 1-13 shooting and 6 turnovers — but while Westbrook and a band of merry minimum’s might have been a recipe for success in 2017, it is very much not so in 2021. This team just can’t reasonably expected to win games in this state. Even if one is as pessimistic as possible about what they’ll look like when Vogel is fired and/or when this team is whole and/or when this roster is overhauled at the trade and buyout deadline, it will be better than whatever this is.
So get mad. Freak out. Reach the zen-like state of nihilism Darius and I have landed on. Feel however you want to feel. But while I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for how the Lakers got here, it’s just not reasonable to expect anything from this team until they get healthier.
And if they never do? Well, then the offseason that put this group together was always doomed anyway. Hopefully at some point we get to see what this team can be. But until they’re closer to healthy, we can’t hold them to the expectations that were meant for a closer-to-intact group.