In short order, Kyrie Irving is going to cross a defender out of
his shoes, and Klay Thompson will begin raining threes like it’s
The rich stand to get richer in Brooklyn and San Francisco while
the Los Angeles Lakers live as paupers.
LeBron James has been incredible, and despite his best efforts,
the Lakers brought in the New Year one game under .500. Worse yet,
they haven’t exactly looked like a team that knows what it’s doing
— neither on the basketball court nor in the front
Having ripped off three wins in a row, there’s still a chance
for them to turn things around. But until they do, the team’s
relative lack of success opens it up to plenty of
In an alternate reality, the Lakers could’ve had Kyle Lowry and
Buddy Hield, the latter of which was in town Tuesday evening.
Perhaps they could still have Montrezl Harrell and Alex Caruso.
Maybe, just maybe, they could’ve still resembled the champion they
Instead, they’ve look every bit like puzzle pieces that don’t
Had Anthony Davis not gotten injured during last season’s
first-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, there’s no
telling where the 2020-21 season would’ve ended for LeBron and
In most instances, a defending champion that saw one of its top
players' season end early would exhibit a certain amount of
patience and attempt to plug holes rather than blow the entire team
up, but not in Tinseltown.
Between then and now, the team added talent without considering
fit, playing an NBA version of supermarket sweep. A mad dash down
the aisles, the Lakers have grabbed any and everyone they could,
and they’ve done so all at the expense of the identity and harmony
that brought them a championship in 2020.
Aside from James and Davis, Dwight Howard and Talen
Horton-Tucker are the only members of the championship team that
remain. And although Avery Bradley was technically a member of the
squad, he didn’t play in the Orlando Bubble. In all, the team
brought in nine new faces, not including replacement players.
And to what end?
It would be foolish to believe that the Lakers would have
reinvented themselves without James at least blessing the moves, if
not downright advocating for them. But to this point, it’s been
more of a car wreck than a smooth drive down the I-110 freeway.
Russell Westbrook appears to have lost a step and hasn’t exactly
thrived alongside James and Davis. It’s damning considering the
fact that Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were sent to
Washington along with Harrell. And it gets even worse when one
considers that Westbrook’s $44 million salary probably had
something to do with the team deciding to let Caruso take his
talents to Chicago.
According to Kuzma himself, a deal that would have sent him to Sacramento in
exchange for Hield “was done,” but the Lakers obviously opted to
pursue the deal for the bigger-named superstar — not the piece that
would have better augmented the team’s core duo.
Last February, seeking an upgrade at point guard, the team
pursued Toronto Raptors veteran Kyle Lowry. A deal failed to
materialize because the Lakers reportedly refused to include
On. Jan. 5, with Los Angeles sitting one game over .500 at
20-19, one can’t help but to wonder how a Lowry-Hield-James
triumvirate would’ve looked, particularly when Lowry and Hield
possess the gifts that seem to be lacking around James in Los
Hindsight might be 20/20, but in the NBA, the best general
managers can tell the future.
At the time the Westbrook trade was made, it wasn’t completely
unreasonable to believe that he could create for both Davis and
James and relieve some of the pressure on James to play point
guard. But Westbrook’s poor decision-making and errant shooting has
undercut his value to the team. That they sacrificed so much to
bring him in can’t be ignored.
Needing to build a core around Westbrook, James, Davis, Carmelo
Anthony and Kent Bazemore, the Lakers would eventually re-sign
Horton-Tucker and sign both Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn. Together,
the three represented much-needed upside, but the moves that
followed created logjams that only made Vogel’s job more
At least on paper, Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard brought
championship pedigree back to the team, as did Rajon Rondo. But
each are over the hill, with Rondo, ironically, being traded to Cleveland in a
move that amounted to a roster spot-opening, cost-cutting measure
for the franchise.
Brought in individually, when including DeAndre Jordan, the
Lakers managed to add talented players to a core consisting of
But as a team?
They have left a lot to be desired. Someone watching from afar
could fairly wonder whether the team has just been making it up as
it went along.
In the NBA, you’re only as good as your record, not your past
accomplishments. So as Kyrie prepares to suit up for Brooklyn
and Klay prepares to write a new chapter in his story, we can’t
help but to look at the Lakers and wonder whether the team’s moves
will ultimately pay off.
Perhaps the team will find a way to trade for Hield; after all,
he did showcase his unlimited range by knocking down seven threes
last night. Maybe the likes of Jerami Grant can be had.
But if there’s one thing the Lakers shouldn’t have been looking
for this season, it’s a savior. Yet, that appears to be precisely
where we are.
In an alternate reality, the team could’ve kept its core
together while still adding Anthony, Howard, Monk and
Maybe they trade for Lowry, maybe they don’t.
Maybe Hield is drilling three-pointers at Crypto.com Arena, or
maybe he isn’t.
But based on what the Lakers have done and the return yielded,
there’s reason to second-guess all that has transpired.
As we approach the halfway point of the season and the Lakers
fail to resemble close to a championship contender, we can’t help
but to remember when they did.
We similarly can’t help but to wonder what they will eventually
Unfortunately, the early returns don’t suggest much.