The Los Angeles Lakers are in a tailspin on the court. They’ve lost eight of their last 10, including five in a row and the defense has self-immolated. Naturally, frustration has built among their players as a result and carried off-court. Rumors of tumult emerged last weekend after a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers when Andrew Bogut, disclosed the anxiety building among teammates, per NBA.com.
“Pouting? Possibly. Guys are frustrated,” Bogut said of the Lakers as Brandon Ingram sat out because of injuries to his quads. “There are some injuries right now, different rotations. Guys are frustrated, obviously. You would be lying to say that there are guys that are not frustrated on this team.
“Everyone knows what is going on with the salary-cap situation next season and all that. That is just distractions that we can’t let affect us. That is part of the league, the business decisions that front offices and coaches make. So if that is distracting guys, that is going to be like that your whole career. That is just the nature of this league.”
Despite improved play from Lonzo Ball it’s the Lakers in flux who are feeling the uncertainty. Following their seventh loss in eight games, the Lakers held a Festivus Airing of Grievances in lieu of a practive on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk:
“We just really had a heart-to-heart,” rookie Kyle Kuzma said. “We’re just trying to get back on the same page. That happens at all levels. It’s no different. Every team has problems. Championship teams have problems and whatnot. Meetings are always good. … But, of course, everybody on the team said something about how they feel.”
“I’m not sure. Only time can tell,” Ingram said, when he was asked if the team meeting helped. “Hopefully, we think about what we said to each other, what we said to the coaches, and that the coaches have listened to what we said. Hopefully, we can take it into practice, into games and just get better.”
Julius Randle is reportedly upset with his diminishing role behind Larry Nance Jr. and due to the exacerbating influence of Kyle Kuzma’s emergence, he’s been hounded by trade rumors throughout the season.
Jordan Clarkson, who is owed nearly $26 million over the next two seasons has been one of the most consistent Lakers, and despite performing like a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, the organization is trying to dump him in order to create salary cap space for a second max level player slot next summer. He’s also playing the fewest minutes of his career, which is an unexpected development in the wake of of D’Angelo Russell’s ouster from L.A.
Even the veterans are living in limbo. Bogut is playing on a one-year-deal. Meanwhile Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who’s unable to leave the state of California while finishing a work-release program, signed a one-year-deal this summer. It’s not quite Elgin Baylor missing away games during the 1962 season so he could serve in the Army Reserves. Brook Lopez, who’s spent most of this decade on a trading block, has one year left on his deal.
As things currently stand, Brandon Ingram, Kuzma and Lonzo Ball are the only rotation players guaranteed to still be Lakers next season. Unlike most losing situations, the Lakers don’t even have an incentive to keep losing because they don’t control their 2018 lottery pick.
The Lakers have done a solid job accumulating talent over the last few drafts, but they appear to be repeating many of the mistakes Philadelphia made during the Hinkie era by treating young pros like lab rats with electrodes attached to their heads. By hanging a cloud of uncertainty over everyone’s head they’ve drained their young stars emotionally in the process.
The Lakers have a lot riding on the looming summer of 2018, but it’s also important that they find some semblance of stability. With any luck, this meeting and the return of Ball to the lineup is enough to assuage the concerns of their roster and get them right back on track.
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