Following the most recent embarrassing loss for the Lakers that came Tuesday against the Mavericks, Russell Westbrook and L.A. Times reporter Brad Turner got into a testy back-and-forth following a question that Turner posed to him. You can view the exchange in its entirety below.
"Nothing. … You got the answer to winning?"
Russ and this reporter got into a spirited debate, but it was all love in the end ❤️ pic.twitter.com/QCjHykJj1t
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 30, 2022
Overall, it seems as if there was a little bit of a misunderstanding between the two regarding what Turner was actually asking. Since the Lakers had suffered another defeat, with this one at the time dropping them out of the play-in tournament, Turner was likely asking what changes the team would need to make to improve and start winning games. It didn’t seem like Turner was done laying out the question, as Westbrook interrupted him before he could do so with an answer of “nothing”. Westbrook’s full answer seemed to show that he interpreted the question as Turner wondering if they would throw up the white flag moving forward now that they’re the 11th-seed. And to give Westbrook credit — which will probably be the last time I do so in this article — Turner’s answer of “winning” is pretty weak once he reversed the question right back to the reporter. That’s a pretty obvious solution to the Lakers’ problems, with the actual process that leads to winning probably needing some changes. Because of that, I can kind of understand Westbrook getting annoyed (before promptly becoming “Good Guy Russ” once he realized cameras were on him).
I don’t really want to discuss that exchange further. Instead, I want to re-focus on that question of what should change and what will change for the Lakers to help them improve between now and when the fat lady sings on this season. Sadly, I’m at a loss of words when trying to answer either of those questions.
The fact of the matter is that nothing is going to change with the team or its approach to their games. The only thing that will change will be the eventual returns of Anthony Davis and LeBron James which may both happen on Friday vs. the Pelicans if recent reports are to be believed. That will help the Lakers avoid the types of embarrassments like Tuesday vs. the Mavs, but will it stop the bleeding in terms of their plummet down the standings, allowing them to actually have any kind of a postseason? Those two will help in that regard, but the superstars’ additions to the team won’t change a lot of other things that will continue to hurt them.
Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Avery Bradley, and Wayne Ellington have proven to nearly be unplayable, so much so that Lakers fans now look at Wenyen Gabriel like he’s a valuable piece of a professional basketball team looking to compete in the postseason and not a guy who’s been on six teams in only three seasons. Dwight Howard, the team’s only true center in this span of time that Davis has missed since Feb. 16th, seems to be running out of gas. It was already obvious he couldn’t play night-to-night, evidenced by the DNP-CD’s he received every so often, but after he looked like he could barely run in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Pelicans following three days of rest, it seems as if the 36-year-old may finally be cooked with a retirement nearing this offseason.
This roster stinks. That’s not going to change.
Even if the roster had more talented options for head coach Frank Vogel, there’s no cohesion within its parts that would allow their defense to properly make the timely rotations needed without a proper center to play drop coverage. The same goes for the offense as the players don’t have enough knowledge or awareness of each others’ games to play a way that’s not extremely dependent on LeBron James bailing them out. That lack of cohesion and continuity is somewhat out of the team’s control as injuries this season are largely to blame, but also, the continued turnover over the past couple of seasons also deserves its share of condemnation.
There’s no aspect of togetherness with this team on the court. That’s not going to change.
Now, not everyone aside from LeBron and Davis has sucked on this team. Malik Monk has grossly out-performed his veteran minimum contract, Carmelo Anthony was a flamethrower from the perimeter in the first half of the season, while mid-to-late season pickups such as Gabriel, Stanley Johnson, and D.J. Augustin have helped the team a lot. And we love to hate on Westbrook, but he’s had some positive moments. But one thing that’s common with basically all of those players (aside from Johnson and to a lesser extent Gabriel) is that their positive attributes all come on the offensive end. That’s caused a roster imbalance that the defensive-minded Frank Vogel has not been able to overcome, with the overall offseason strategy from the front office seeming more foolish each and every day when you see LeBron ready to win the league’s scoring title while watching Westbrook and others fall asleep on defense letting countless open layups and 3-point attempts fly.
There’s no impactful defense coming from anyone aside from LeBron or AD. That’s not going to change.
So… yeah. Here we are. LeBron, Davis, Westbrook, Vogel, and the organization at large are still looking for changes to get them to the level where they can even realistically re-consider their preseason expectations. That issue has made the second half of this season seem like an endless loop with every Lakers fan probably feeling like they’re starring in a “Groundhog Day” reboot, Russell Westbrook’s quarrels with media members included.
The returns of the team’s superstars will be a very positive change. But the Lakers are past the point of any other significant changes happening.
The only question left to wonder is when they’ll be put out of their misery.