The Los Angeles Lakers have been craving some semblance of excitement since Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his final game at the Staples Center on Apr. 13, 2016.
That changed this offseason on July 1 of 2018 when LeBron James decided to ditch Cleveland (again) and travel to the West Coast to join the Lakers.
The Honeymoon phase:
With the hopes of getting the Lakers back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-2013 season, it seemed as if all the offseason acquisitions and excitement proved to be effective for Los Angeles.
The Lakers got off to a good start in the first half of the season going 11-9 through the first 20 games and 18-12 through 30 games.
The success would keep coming when the Lakers would knock off the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in a much anticipated Christmas Day showdown.
Not only did they defeat the Warriors, but would do so in resounding fashion on the road, winning by 26 points in Oracle Arena.
Things were going great and Laker Nation was amped.
Where did it all go wrong?
Midway through the third quarter of the Lakers/Warriors game, James would exit with a groin injury. He would not return.
After the game, it was also announced that Rajon Rondo suffered a torn ligament in his ring finger and would be out of action for approximately one month.
The Lakers have since dropped five of their last six games with their most recent loss coming at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who would dismiss their head coach Tom Thibodeau soon after the 26-point victory.
In this slump, the Lakers have fallen from near the top of the Western Conference standings at around the fourth and fifth seed in which they had a comfortable grip on all season, down to the eight spot.
Taking a deeper look at the struggles, through the first 34 games, the Lakers’ offense was surging, averaging a total of 122.7 points per game.
In the six-game skid, the Lakers are averaging 107.
The Lakers are playing without their best facilitator and arguably the best player on the planet in James, however, three of their recent losses have come at the hands of teams like the New York Knicks, Sacramento Kings, and the Timberwolves.
The Lakers cannot feel confident about their ability to win games without James, which does not fit too well with the recent comments from Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.
“We are not just one player, we just got to eliminate little mistakes and we could have won all three games [without them].” – Kyle Kuzma
It is clear that the Lakers are missing the leadership and production from both Rondo and James. The players on the roster simply have not been able to get the job done and hold down the fort while their prized superstar awaits his eventual return to action.
While the NBA season has not yet reached the All-Star break, this rough patch for the Lakers has made it abundantly clear that they are in desperate need of James in order to have any chance at a deep postseason run.
The early season excitement has faded away and the reality of the fierce competition that lies in the Western Conference has reared it’s ugly head for the Lakers. Now let’s see how they respond.