The Lakers have lost 4 games in a row and 7 of 8 overall. They are struggling — with injuries, with their rotations, and, it seems, with each other. A festivus style airing of grievances took place at Thursday’s practice (more on this in a different post) with Luke Walton ceding the floor to the players to speak to each other and to the coaches about their general frustrations.
A few details have emerged from this meeting, but those are for another time to discuss. Instead, what I am focusing on is how the team moves forward from this. Before this brutal December schedule, Walton spoke about not wanting his team/players to fracture when facing such a murderer’s row of opponents.
That comment spoke to, I think, an understanding that the combination of this specific roster construction, with so many free agents to be + the outwardly stated goals of this front office to again to turnover the roster next year with (hopefully) multiple max level stars could end up equalling a scenario where guys could end up splintering if the season went south with too many losses piling up.
Well, at 11-22 heading into tonight, this team is at a crossroads. The injuries do not help, but neither does the seemingly random deployment of players — especially Julius Randle — and how that can impact the view of the guys on the floor who are expected to compete for each other and for a coaching staff that is asking them to be selfless and team first.
Heading into tonight, then, I’m worried less about rotations, shot selection, or even Lonzo and Lopez being out. Those things matter, of course, and will have their impact. But I’m more looking at the effort level, the commitment to the schemes, and the attention to detail teams need to win games. The Lakers have not had a lot of that in the last few games and if they are going to get back on track, they’ll need to rediscover that.
So, yes, the Lakers play the Clippers tonight. They’ll need to contain dribble penetration, make sure Blake Griffin doesn’t go wild in his return from injury, keep DeAndre Jordan off the offensive glass, and slow Lou Williams. They’ll need to hit some outside shots, make their FT’s, and avoid turnovers by taking care of the ball. These are the details of this specific matchup that will matter.
But more than those things, they’ll need to compete. They’ll need to be attentive. And they’ll need to work with and for each other. When their number is called, they need to be ready to play hard. If they do those things, they’ll be in this game against a Clippers team that is not very good in their own right. If they don’t, they’ll need more than another team meeting to get things right.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.