The Los Angeles Lakers continue to cause us to think “Is this the worst loss of the season?” on a weekly basis. The most recent instance of this happened last night as the team lost 130-108 against the Boston Celtics. It wouldn’t have been the worst blowout loss lately, however, this was a game that the Lakers held a 14-point first quarter lead, as it really seemed like they had the Celtics figured out in the early going. The lead was trimmed in the second quarter, followed up by one of the Lakers’ infamously bad third quarters that eventually put the game out of reach.
They’re now 8-9, which is coincidentally the same record that the 2012-13 “This is going to be fun” Lakers team had through their first 17 games. It’s definitely panic mode for fans, as they continue to wonder about Frank Vogel’s job security as he almost certainly would be the scapegoat for this season’s failures if management were to hit the panic button as much as fans. However, despite all the troubles, Russell Westbrook and others are still preaching patience due to the fact that the players on this roster are all new to each other (quote from Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll).
“Nobody’s winning anything right now. When we get our team together and playing and get a better rhythm, that will come as the season goes along, and that’s that…I think the reality of it is that everybody on the outside has really high expectations of our team, as they should. But the reality of it is we haven’t really played with each other…”
If Westbrook is referencing other teams around the league in terms of “nobody’s winning”, he does have somewhat of a point. The Milwaukee Bucks are a great example of this as they too have had injuries to their stars and role players (COVID-19 for Khris Middleton and a back issue for Brook Lopez among others) cause them to start slow (they’re currently 8-8 on the season in 10th place in the East).
That’s a measured and fair excuse from Westbrook based on patience, and is also one of the more drawn-out and calm responses you’ll get from him after a loss. But then Westbrook continues, and boy, does he seem less calm and patient as he goes on.
“…And nobody cares, and obviously after each game everybody asks the same questions. And I’m tired of giving the same answers.”
“Hey how long do you think it’s going to take?” We don’t know. When we win, it’s still going to take some time.”
“Either you can pull apart, or you can come together and figure it out. And we know that we have the team to be able to figure it out and the experience to be able to do so. Our job is to get in there and do it.”
LeBron James also discussed his current mindset with the same overlap of patience and urgency, saying “It’s never as bad as it may feel and it’s never as good as it may seem.” He too also seemed to show his true colors in terms of how he’s really feeling about the team with his quote below.
LeBron says the Lakers have "no level of panic" but their "should be some sense of urgency" every time they play.
"It's never 'we've got 65 games left.' We damn sure need to play better."
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) November 20, 2021
Anthony Davis has started in every game this season despite many pundits’ critiques of his overall availability, but with that, he has to be the main guy answering questions after all these losses. We’ve seen Davis show a very upset and impatient version of himself in these press conferences, one that we’re not accustomed to seeing. He continued this after the loss against the Celtics, leaning more towards the side of intense urgency when compared to the other two stars on this team.
Anthony Davis: “We’ve got three games left on this road trip. We need all three.” The Lakers fell to 8-9 with their loss in Boston.
— Bill Oram (@billoram) November 20, 2021
“We have big-picture patience, but small-picture sense of urgency to get this right right away and to win these games in the short term. We fell short tonight, it’s disappointing but we’ll get back to work tomorrow, look at the film and get better from it.”
The above quote can be attributed to Frank Vogel (per Lakers Nation). But no, that wasn’t after last night’s game. That was after the Lakers’ SECOND loss of the season to the Thunder. Since then, they’ve had blowout losses against the Timberwolves, Bulls, and Celtics, with two of those three games including Lakers’ leads early on.
The Lakers can continue to preach a mindset that includes “big-picture patience”, but these continued losses will only drive them farther down the standings, causing that “small-picture urgency” to continue breathing down their necks. Given Davis’ current demeanor and insistence that the team close out this road trip with three straight wins (against the Pistons, Knicks, and Pacers), it seems like we’re nearing a point where that urgency causes the situation to boil over into something that pulls the team apart just like Westbrook referenced.
When that happens, who knows where this season goes from there.