For all the cronyism that surrounds the Lakers, and all the former players that are associated with the franchise, both fair and foul, one of the smartest and most honest of all of the lifers surrounding the team is James Worthy. A longtime analyst with Spectrum SportsNet, Worthy has been through the worst of the worst and best of the best that the Lakers have to offer, all while being tasked with providing reactions and analysis for fans after those games, with his analysis often serving as a bellwether for the Laker faithful.
The result has been some memorable moments, whether it’s the Worthy victory cigars, his celebrations of “get that Celtic ass” or his brutal honesty when things don’t go right, Worthy has long been seen as a voice for the fans after games.
This brings us to Wednesday’s loss to the Rockets. The loss itself wasn’t surprising, with the Lakers long proving they are capable of these types of performances. It was the manner in which they did it — watching the Rockets blow their doors off in overtime — that was new for this season.
After the loss, Worthy was his typically honest self, delivering a scathing assessment of the Lakers following the game. Here’s a transcript of the meat of Worthy’s comments postgame on Spectrum SportsNet (emphasis mine), and you can watch them in the video below.
“I didn’t think that we could hit a new low, but we hit a new low tonight. The worst team in the league (the Rockets), to be able to dominate like they did in overtime, first four quarters (were) tough enough. I thought the Lakers played well enough to win in four quarters... but, to me, it looks like — and this is my take on it — at the beginning of the season there were a lot of expectations about this team to win. And I think they are at a point where they know they’re not going to meet those expectations.
“It’s not an excuse. They should be better than this. All the things they’ve experienced — injuries, protocols — they still should be somewhere around sixth or seventh (in the Western Conference). They didn’t start out the season serious with the preseason. They were waiting around. And, so, now I think they realize they can’t win. They don’t feel like they can. This is what I’m seeing. They can’t beat the Suns or the best teams.
“They’re not dead on arrival, but they just don’t have that tenacity, they don’t have that will to work their way out of this, even to get to the play-in game... You would think they might be able to, with a healthy team, but it doesn’t seem like they believe in anything that they’re doing. Yeah, they won a game here and there. But, like I said, they get up for the good teams but for this Rockets team, and coach Vogel said it before the game, he said they might be young and they might not have a great record but they’re going to play hard and they did. That’s all that’s been happening with the Lakers in a lot of cases is they’re just getting outworked.
“They play well for 30-something minutes and then they just, that disbelief of ‘I don’t know why we’re trying to win’ comes in, and that’s what it looks like on the floor to me. Not good.”
Because it’s 2022, and social media makes instant access possible, Worthy’s comments traveled from the Spectrum SportsNet studios in Los Angeles to the media room in Houston, where Carmelo Anthony was asked about them post-game, leading to a very surprising result: He didn’t really push back on them all that hard.
“I respect James to the utmost,” Anthony said. “That’s his opinion, man, and he’s been around this game for a long time. He’s earned the right to have an opinion. I don’t want to say I totally disagree with him, but I don’t think we come in saying ‘We’re losing’ or we’re trying to figure out how not to lose and things like that.
“I just think when you’re losing games — close games — the way that we are, the way that we do sometimes, it affects you. You think about it. Sometimes it carries over and sometimes it don’t. The best thing to do is not let it carry over to the next game and figure out a way to win close games and will ourselves to win a close game.”
The Lakers have been challenged mentally just as much as they have physically this year, a high bar given all the injuries suffered. The injuries themselves can take a toll, but as Melo said, the repeated losses, self-inflicted or not, down the stretch can also have a cumulative effect.
This is especially true, as Worthy said, for a Lakers team that had such high expectations and have failed them so miserably. Again, even if so much of it has been self-inflicted, there is mental wear and tear that has ground the Lakers down.
Now, late in the season with those goals unattainable, the Lakers aren’t putting up fights anymore. The end of the season feels inevitable, and whether it comes in the play-in game or the playoffs, title contention isn’t in the cards this year. And with that being accepted by most of the Lakers already, the end result is efforts and losses like Wednesday, which likely will only continue for the remainder of the year.