First off, Happy New Year to all of you. Whatever your plans — whether watching the Lakers or not — have fun and be safe.
Second, I don’t really have much to say about tonight’s game against the Bucks. The Lakers are struggling mightily, losers of 5 in a row and 7 of their last 10 games. They’re banged up with Xavier Henry out at least a week and Wes Johnson out with the stomach flu. Pau (sinusitis and bronchitis), Kaman (sprained ankle), and Farmar (tightness in his hamstring) all will play, but I don’t expect any of them to be 100% physically.
The Lakers, then, are a team short on healthy talent eve if they are long on fight and determination. The latter matters a great deal in this league, but the former is probably the most important factor when determining wins and losses in the association. Hence the piling up of losses recently. All of this is more than frustrating when in the moment even if step back does provide some perspective on what this team is going through.
Today rumors surfaced about a potential swap of the Lakers’ current big man and a former one. This deal has been downplayed and all but shot down by sources within the organization, but even acknowledging the discussions is an admission that the team’s front office is focusing on more than just wins and losses for this season. They’re thinking about the bottom line, draft positioning, and future assets too. This should be expected and of no surprise, but it’s an uncommon look behind the curtain of a front office who has said that their goals remain focused on getting banner #17 up in the rafters this year.
In any event, those are topics that go beyond tonight’s match up with the Bucks. Milwaukee is one of the worst teams in the league and comes into Los Angeles to play a game on New Year’s Eve. Let’s just say that there may be more than a few thoughts about what’s happening after the game while the game is actually going on. That said, the quality of the Bucks shouldn’t mean much considering the Lakers’ last two losses came against the bottom-dwelling 76ers and Jazz. The Lakers don’t have the luxury of taking teams for granted or assuming they’ll win games based off superior talent. Fact is, there aren’t many (any?) teams who the Lakers have more talent than — at least not this injury ravaged version of the Lakers.
So tonight the Lakers will have to be at their best even thought circumstances dictate it will be hard for that to be the case. Their execution will need to be sharp and they’ll need to do all the little things well. Things like boxing out, avoiding live ball turnovers, and making the extra pass to open teammates. They’ll need to communicate defensively, help the helper, and play for each other. They need to do these things every night, of course, but with a diminished roster and rumors swirling they’re even more important tonight.
The Bucks would love nothing more than to leave LA with a win and celebrate their New Year in style. The Lakers would also like to be able to go out after the game with their collective heads held high (at least Nick Young would). So, here’s to the home team getting it done. They’ll be in their black Hollywood Nights unis, so maybe that will give them a bit of luck. They can use as much of that as they can get, after all.