A star-studded team featuring LeBron James couldn’t even make the play-in tournament. Think about that. But how long did we know the Lakers may not be all they were supposed to be?
“We were getting killed in the preseason,” coach Frank Vogel said about the Lakers’ 0-6 preseason record. “And it was like, ‘Well, it’s preseason.’ But it’s still the early look at those guys.”
James and Anthony Davis have always been a fit, but Russell Westbrook turned out to be nothing close to that. But you can hardly blame all of the Lakers’ issues on Westbrook. This is a team that returned just four players from last season. Roster turnover was not the Lakers’ friend.
Old, injured guys can’t defend. That truth, combined with the often out-of-sorts offense turned out to be a basketball disaster. It’s hard to think of a bigger bust in NBA history than this season’s Lakers, as Hoops Wire’s Alejandro Avila also suggested.
Without question, changes are coming, and they are highly likely to start with Vogel. As for the roster, the Lakers have almost zero wiggle room under the salary cap. Their only options to create some would be to trade Westbrook … or Davis … or (gasp) James.
Westbrook almost certainly can’t be moved. His massive contract won’t allow it. He is also coming off the worst year of his career. And Davis may not bring back equal return. And yeah, James will be 38 next season. He was fantastic in terms of scoring and trying to put the team on his back. It was admirable, old-school stuff. But he can’t carry you alone anymore. Not at this stage.
Anyone else? Yeah, as solid of a role player as Talen Horton-Tucker is, it’s hard to envision anyone giving up a player of real value for him (or Malik Monk, for that matter). Role players are role players. You don’t acquire stars in exchange for them.
And it will probably take more than just a coaching change, or front office maneuvering to repair it. The Lakers created this mess from the top on down, and no quick fix is on the way. Gutting the roster seems like a better idea.
But good luck with that. When you build a high-priced team that’s clearly past its prime, the market for your players isn’t exactly rich.
So that leaves the coach as the fall guy. Vogel admitted the reports have weighed on him a bit.
“It’s not easy to shut it out,” Vogel said. “It’s not fun to have those reports hanging over your head or seeing it everywhere you look, especially so early in the season (and) after what we’ve been able to accomplish here. But to me, that pressure of expectation has been here since the day I signed on.”
Those expectations weren’t even close to met. It’s not one individual’s fault, though. This Lakers mess was a collective effort through and through.
Sam Amico is senior writer for Hoops Wire. Follow him @AmicoHoops.