There is no valid excuse as to why the Lakers are still trying to find an identity this late into the season. The Lakers should have “figured it out” by now and the onus for failing to do that should fall on the players and the coaching staff. The players need to create cohesion on the court and they must find a way to build their chemistry. A team cannot develop into a championship contender if the players aren’t willing to sacrifice for the betterment of teammate or the team in general. Injuries have hurt the Lakers mightily this season, but they have had enough time with at least three of their four stars to build a solid foundation for success.
The blame should also fall on the coaching staff for its failure to bring about change in Los Angeles. Mike D’Antoni does have a tough job coaching the Lakers, but he must realize that his system may not entirely work with the players on this team. No one is telling D’Antoni to throw his playbook, but he should stop being stubborn and tweak his system so he can fully utilize the skills of all of his stars.
Last season in the Western Conference, the eight seeded Utah Jazz had a .545 winning percentage and a 36-30 record overall (66 game season). After Friday night’s loss to the Thunder, the Lakers fell to 15-21, an embarrassing .417 winning percentage. Based on the Jazz’s record last season, the Lakers need about 44 to 46 wins in order to claim the eight seed in the conference. A record of 44-38 would get them a .537 winning percentage, whereas 45-37 would put them at .549 and 46-36 would get them a .561 winning percentage.
Meaning, the Lakers will have to go at least 29-17 in order to make the last spot in the Western Conference, but they will likely face the superior Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. And if the Thunder’s Friday night dismantling of the Lakers showed us anything, it’s that the Lakers stand no chance against Oklahoma City if they meet in the post-season.
After all the trades and risks the front-office took this off-season, not making the post-season will be both shameful for the management and also a lethal blow to the future of the Lakers as the team will not have a lottery pick. Yes, the Lakers’ 2013 first round pick will go the Phoenix Suns, meaning the Lakers can’t tank games in hopes of landing a top draft pick in 2013.
The odds are certainly not in favor of the Lakers making the playoffs and a lot must change for them to make a strong push here in the latter part of the regular season. It is clear that the Lakers will have a hefty hill to climb if they want to reach the post-season, so there is no time for “moral victories.”
The Lakers cannot continue to play hard against the elite teams in the NBA if they always end up losing. At this stage of the season and at this point of the stars’ careers, coming close is not good enough. The Lakers have a roster full of proven winners and they are not willing to accept mediocrity. The only way to improve their position in the standings and attain a 29-17 record the rest of the way is to win games, not to “come close” or play with toughness in a losing effort.
Fans are getting tired of the Lakers slacking in the first three quarters and hoping their fourth quarter surge can help them win. No, that’s not how it works Los Angeles. In order to be an elite team, you have to be willing to play smart, energetic basketball for a full 48 minutes.
Time is running out for the Los Angeles Lakers. You can take pleasure in all the moral victories you want, and if you enjoy the feeling of losing but still giving a fearless effort, so be it. But remember this, only teams that know they are lottery bound celebrate after such losses, not teams that have the talent to set league records.