Amico: Who Can Possibly Save The Lakers Now?

AKRON, Ohio — It’s almost playoff time, a little more than a month from now, and the Lakers remain a basketball disaster.

The NBA-loving universe keeps waiting … and waiting … and waiting for the Lakers to do something to show they can turn it around. They’ve done nothing. In fact, they only seem to be getting worse.

LeBron James
Getty images

They only seem to be getting older. And that is really saying something, given that they began the season as the oldest team in NBA history.

Oh, and as you know, Anthony Davis is hurt again. At age 28, he’s one of the younger players on the roster, and undoubtedly the youngest star.

Overall, the Lakers (27-35) have lost four straight. They’ve won just two of their last 10. They are barely clinging to a spot in the NBA play-in tournament. And if the playoffs were done the old way, and they started today, the Lakers would be in the draft lottery.

Only they wouldn’t even have a lottery pick. Instead, they mortgaged the future to win now, and the now stinks. 

Other than all that, things are great.

How bad is it for the Lakers? Not even LeBron James can save them. He’s the greatest player of his generation. But he’s no longer the NBA’s greatest player. Not at the age of 37. He’s very, very (and maybe still even a third very) good.

But as one opposing GM told FS1 analyst and veteran NBA insider Ric Bucher, “LeBron is still good, but he can’t carry you anymore.”

So, who will carry the Lakers then? Russell Westbrook? That idea seems laughable at this point. Westbrook still gives his all, but it’s not stretch to say he just doesn’t fit. 

Space Jam 2 mural
A painting on the side of a building, depicting the characters in “Space Jam 2,” in LeBron James’ hometown of Akron/Photo by Sam Amico

He isn’t likely to be traded, either. No one wants the anchor that is his contract. So yes, the Lakers stand a good chance to have this same team next season, and all these old guys will be another year older.

How’s that for a rosy future?

Oh sure, they could make some minor moves around the edges of the roster, but that won’t be enough to save the day. They could always trade Davis — but his history of injuries won’t exactly have opposing teams mortgaging the farm. Far from it.

One rival executive told Hoops Wire that Davis has less value as a trade commodity now than he’s ever had, and “considerably so.”

So when you can’t move around the players, guess who usually is shown the door? That’s right, the coach (Frank Vogel) and/or GM (Rob Pelinka). But the bottom line is coaches and general managers don’t put on shorts and sneakers. You can change those all you want, and it generally doesn’t make a major difference.

After all, the NBA is a players league, and if your players aren’t getting the job done, it’s not always a matter of just having a new voice. It’s a matter of having some new players.

So who will save the Lakers?

Perhaps only the person who is willing to take charge, accept the truth, and realize that if they continue down this path, it may be time to try to trade Davis, or James, or both. It may be time to gut the roster, try to land some draft picks and make it a whole new day in LA.

This batch is running out of time. And the only thing that can save this season’s Lakers is a quick turnaround and to play their best when it means the most.

But does anyone think that can actually happen? The Lakers themselves probably have some serious doubts.

Sam Amico is senior NBA writer at Hoops Wire. Follow him @SamAmico.

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  1. The best possible and most difficult thing for LeBron to realize is that it is his turn to fit around somebody else. To fill the lanes on the break and spot up for threes FOR somebody else. Off the ball. Rebound. Play great D. Outlet passes. The amazing outlet passes that could see Russ laying it up in two seconds.

    I agree with you Sam. Russ just doesn’t fit. In fact, he has never actually “fit” anywhere, ever.

    Teams that have had success with Westbrook have made Westbrook the center of what they do. OKC at its best, Russ drove that team. They fit around him.

    This the key do unlocking success with the Lakers. Unlocking Russ, telling him to it’s his ball. Asking the other players to keep up. That’s is all they need to try to do. Problem is it would require a serious ego check that LeBron would never come to terms with. Ironically, he will be getting in his own legacy’s way with his stubbornness. Another ring he could maybe have with the right realistic mindset.

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