Los Angeles Lakers Officially Eliminated From Playoff Hunt
When LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent it looked like ‘deja vu all over again’. Back in 2010, LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat and after a slow start made the 2010-2011 NBA Finals. That was the low end expectation for his move to the West Coast. Spoiler alert–the Lakers didn’t reach that goal. They didn’t even come close. On Friday night, the Lakers were officially eliminated from the 2018-2019 NBA playoffs with a 111-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Lakers have now missed the playoffs for six straight seasons. To put this into contest, the Lakers missed the playoffs only five times in the team’s 65 year history before the current run of futility. Adding insult to injury–the team’s performance actually regressed with LeBron James on the roster. The 2017-2018 Lakers went 35-47. The 2018-2019 Lakers are 31-41 with 10 games remaining. Given the team’s horrible performance of late going 1-10 SU in the month of March there’s no guarantee they’ll improve upon last season’s record. Since last year’s team didn’t have LeBron James the regression in the Lakers’ overall performance is shocking.
So too is how far short of expectations the team has fallen. Shortly after LeBron signed with Los Angeles, NBA futures betting odds had the Lakers as high as a #2 betting choice to win the league championship. It retrospect, that’s downright laughable. To some extent, there were ‘circumstances beyond the control’ of the Lakers including injuries to LeBron and other key players. The reality, however, is that the Lakers didn’t have as much talent around James as did the Heat when he joined their squad. Dwyane Wade was already there and Heat management brought in Chris Bosh and a group of talented role players. The Lakers simply rolled the dice in the hope that James is good enough to succeed with a team full of substandard talent and young prospects. He’s clearly not, but NBA history has demonstrated that no superstar has ever been that good.
Part of the problem might have been LeBron himself. He was injured for several weeks but when he was in the lineup the urgency just wasn’t there. It almost appeared that he thought he could ‘phone it in’ and win. That wasn’t the case though he took little personal responsibility for the fiasco of a season:
“It’s not what we signed up for. Throughout the year, things happened. Suspensions, injuries, things of that nature. And just not being able to play sustainable basketball for 48 minutes. But you don’t even try to wrap your head around it, you just keep pushing. Just try to get better tonight, move on to tomorrow, and go from there. Playoffs are never promised. You’ve got to come out and work. For me personally, you just continue to put the work in and see what you can do to help.”
In the off season just about everyone around LeBron will be held accountable. Head coach Luke Walton might be out of a job. Seven of the Lakers’ 14 roster players are set to become unrestricted free agents. It would be silly for the Lakers to part ways with talented youngsters Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram but everyone else is fair game. There are no guarantees that anyone else on the team will be back next year.