At the end of last season, Frank Vogel was fired after missing the playoffs – he had used 41 different starting line-ups throughout the season after entering it as the favorites to win the conference. All of the blame cannot be put on Vogel, though; there were rumors last offseason that the axed Lakers man had wanted to bring in Buddy Hield to help solve their perimeter problems rather than Westbrook – with Lebron and AD pushing for the Westbrook trade after the three had sat down and spoke.
The Lakers gave up some important pieces last offseason, losing Caruso to Chicago, where he went on to have a strong season and showcased all of the skills that made him such a valuable team player. They have an all-around game, a strong work ethic, and a low-maintenance personality. He built up a strong relationship with Lebron throughout their time together in LA. They also parted ways with Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the Westbrook trade; all three players played vital roles in the Championship winning team of 2020.
The Lakers went from having a strong supporting cast for their two superstars to having three superstars and a lack of depth in nearly every position. Only five of the teams that won the Championship started last season as Lakers.
After a five-game losing streak to start the season, the worst start in franchise history. First-year head coach Darvin Ham and the Lakers have come under fire from the media and fans alike. L. A is dead last in the league in 3-point shooting, connecting on only 26.6% of their shots from behind the arc. They have ranked dead last in rebounding, 29th overall for scoring, and had a field goal percentage of 42.7%. Ham has been tasked with solving problems that were not of his making, which must be taken into account. What would Lakers fans give to see a prime Shaq on the court.
The Lakers have lost to the Warriors, the Clippers, the Trail Blazers, the Nuggets, and the Timberwolves. No matter how bad they have been, nobody could have expected the Lakers to lose five games in a row. On Sunday, there finally seemed to be a shift. Lebron, chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring record in his 20th season in the league, grabbed 26 points and eight assists in 35 minutes. AD scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, and Westbrook nearly grabbed himself a triple-double, going 18-8-8 from a secondary bench role. The Lakers hit 13-30 from behind the arc; they finally outrebounded an opponent and outscored the Nuggets in the paint on second-chance points and points from the bench.
They showed the hunger and tenacity required to start winning some games. If you back the Lakers to get back to winning ways, you can certainly get good odds at the minute. It’s easier than ever to wager on the Lakers now with the big sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel. What was once very limited, DraftKings sportsbook is available in more states than ever, meaning you can easily lay a bet on them.
One strange statistic pulled from that game was plus/minus; Lebron had a plus/minus of -1, whilst Westbrook finished with a plus/minus of +18. For a player constantly slammed for his inefficiency, this was a turnaround. There was no drama, and there was no pouting. Instead, Russ came from the bench and played like a man without a care in the world. It marked a real change from the pressure he has clearly been playing under since joining his hometown team.
Darvin Ham seems to be holding his players accountable, making tough decisions, and placing the focus back on the court. Only time will tell whether he can stop the bleeding in this Lakers team, but if Sunday’s showing is anything to go by, they’re trending in the right direction.
Trade Talk and the Future
Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers would be reassessing their roster coming into the holiday season. Two potential trades involve sending the man partially responsible for the season’s first victory to the Pacers. In addition, the Lakers reportedly have an interest in Miles Turner and Buddy Hield (again).
The former is a center known for his shot-blocking, 3-point shooting, and his ability to make plays. He certainly seemed enthused by the idea of joining a big market team when being interviewed by Woj recently. The latter is a 6,4 shooting guard who has connected on 43% of his outside shots in 7 seasons with the Pelicans, the Kings, and the Pacers. Both would improve the Lakers starting five immensely. Unfortunately, the Lakers are playing AD at the five, a position he has been vocal about not wanting to play in the past. This is even though he is battling lower back pain, and his preferred position is the 4. The only other options they have are role players.
There was a lot of talk of a Westbrook trade this summer, with many seeming to believe he is almost single-handedly responsible for the Lakers woes, whilst AD has somehow escaped the same criticisms. Perhaps because of the 2020 title he won but for a player of his ability, to only play in 80 of a possible 169 games is abysmal. Here is a 6,10 supremely talented player capable of playing three positions, yet hasn’t been able to replicate the form that saw him win a title in his first season and has, at large, been a disappointment.
Chances of Winning the Chip
Despite the victory over the Nuggets, this team seems to be a long way from challenging for a title, but you can never say never. There is a long way to go until the trade deadline, and despite the losing streak, Ham does seem to be grabbing the bull by the horns. After spending four years as an assistant coach for the Bucks, he knows what it takes to create a winning environment, and with Lebron, he has a floor general with the know-how of how to make it happen come game-time.