The Lakers are stuck in quite the situation right now. On one hand, injuries have been a factor in the team’s struggles this season.
On the other hand, it had little factor in the team committing 21 turnovers and having one of the very worst shooting nights in franchise history on Wednesday, a game that predictably ended in a loss and represents probably rock bottom for this team so far this season.
The Lakers shot 4-30 (13.3%) last night against the Heat from the 3-point line. That is the worst 3-point shooting percentage in a game in franchise history with a minimum of 30 attempts.— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) January 4, 2024
Predictably, the reports that have followed in the hours after are of a “deepening disconnect” between Darvin Ham and the Lakers locker room. Anyone who has watched the Lakers this season has sensed this coming, but the quotes after Wednesday’s loss offered perhaps a peak at that disconnect.
Ham took to the podium postgame and was asked about yet another lineup change and whether that factored into the inconsistency of the team.
“We can’t find any consistency until we get healthy. It’s as simple as that,” Ham said. “We got to get healthy. And once you get healthy, guys got to get back in rhythm and we got to find a cohesive unit, a total cohesive rotation that we can go with. When you’re dealing with different guys being in and out of the lineup that frequently, it’s damn near impossible to find a rhythm. That’s just being real. There’s no slight on anybody. We pride ourselves on making sure we don’t send our guys out there to expose themselves to any major type of injury. That’s what we stand on.
“But, having said that, we have to get guys healthy. It’s those little nagging tweaks and whatever you have going on that we have to make sure that guys can not just be available, but available at a high level.”
That’s probably not a message that’s going to be received well by fans. No matter if or how much truth there is to it, the way the Lakers played against the Heat was not going to lend itself to excuses postgame.
Perhaps the bigger issue, though, is that the players themselves weren’t parroting the same message. In fact, they were giving opposite answers.
In the locker room, Anthony Davis spoke about being outplayed by the Heat and how injuries shouldn’t be an excuse at this point.
“It’s a little bit of everything right now,” AD said. “We’re not executing. (Miami) played harder than us tonight, executed better than us tonight, were a little more physical than us tonight. We got outworked tonight. It’s a little bit of everything right now. If we keep on this trend, it’s not going to be good for us. It’s kind of obvious we have to figure it out sooner than later. Guys being out is not an excuse. There’s no excuses for us. Like coach said (pregame), we got enough in this locker room to win, but we have to come out and compete.”
Back at the podium, Austin Reaves was sharing a similar sentiment as his teammate.
“We can’t use that as an excuse regardless of what the lineup is, what change is,” Reaves said. “Whatever happens. We have to better as a team and go win games. We’re more than talented enough to win games. We have enough depth. We have enough skill. We have to figure it out. We’ve spoken for the first (35) games about finding that chemistry and finding that togetherness. So, now we just have to figure it out.”
Technically, both things that Ham and AD and Reaves said can be true. They can struggle to find consistency while injured and also still have enough right now to win games.
But the optics of it aren’t great, especially taking in the full context of everything going on. Even under ideal circumstances, having basically contradicting messages from two of your three top players and your head coach isn’t the best.
But having these quotes hours before a report of a growing disconnect between Ham and the locker room is only going to lead to one conclusion, fair or foul.
It’s impossible for outsiders to know if the locker room has any sort of fracture and if there is a disconnect between players and coach. But quotes like this sure do fuel the speculation and reporting that there is one and, in general, is not a great look for a struggling team.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.