With Title-or-Bust Mentality, Lakers Face Another Offseason of Major Decisions

Time has run out for the 2023-24 Los Angeles Lakers, and some will tell you it was just a matter of time.

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
(David Zalubowski/AP Photo)

But they fought before succumbing again to the defending champion Denver Nuggets, this time in five games. Man, they fought.

It took two buzzer-beaters from Nuggets guard Jamal Murray and a couple other close games before the Lakers’ season came to an end — and yes, you read that right. Murray hit two buzzer-beaters to win it in the same series. 

That included Game 5, lifting the Nuggets to (yet another) comeback win and propelling them to the second round.

The Lakers, on the other hand, are history. And now, it’s time to put on their offseason thinking caps.

Does Darvin Ham remain coach? Does LeBron James return? What about D’Angelo Russell, who also has a player option?

What can be done to give James, Anthony Davis and the rest one more fighting chance? Mostly, can anything be done?

It’s hard to know the answers just yet. James, 39, intends to play at least another season, maybe even “two or three more, agent Rich Paul said on Sirius XM NBA Radio hours before the game. But at this stage, you can be sure James doesn’t want to play for an also-ran — or a team much as the Lakers, that can’t seem to get out of the Western Conference’s seventh seed.

So now GMRob Pelinka and the front office have to find a way to deliver something we haven’t seen with this franchise for at least several years That would be hope.

Now, hope for other teams might be finishing .500 … or just making the playoffs, or perhaps even winning a round. But these are the Lakers. It’s championship or bust, and for too long now, the result has been bust.

The Lakers’ first order of business will be convincing James to stay (which shouldn’t be difficult, according to one report). The next will be building a roster to make him glad he did. 

For the record, James told reporters, “I’m not going to answer that,” when asked if he thought that might be his final game with the Lakers.

Anyway, who knows the answers? Do you try to surround James and Davis with younger legs to help keep them fresh during the regular season? Or do you go all out with older veterans who are more prone to deliver at playoff time?

Ideally, you try to find a mix of both. But that won’t be easy. The new collective-bargaining agreement makes it pretty difficult to land a third star and still have something resembling a bench (just ask the Phoenix Suns).

As for Ham, there’s no telling what LA will do. Some will tell you he got the most out of this roster, as they had a shot to win against the Nuggets in nearly every game, and did actually win one. Others will say Ham lacked creativity, that he mismanaged games and timeouts. 

There may be truth to both.

But ultimately, winning in the NBA is about the players, and the Lakers could undoubtedly use a few more of those. Good ones, that is.

The offseason starts now. That’s all we can for certain. And for LA, it would be one of the most vital since James joined the team in 2018.

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