I have a gripe to start the late-afternoon on this fine Tuesday. I try and keep these on the down-low but I have to address it today. A hot topic to start the NBA season has been what in god’s name is going on in Lakerland. They’re 4-6, Rajon Rondo (allegedly) spit on Chris Paul, Brandon Ingram tried to murder the entire Rockets team in cold blood, LeBron’s patience is on the fritz, and Magic reportedly “scolded” (yes, a grown man scolded another grown man) Luke Walton for the team’s poor start. The topic of discussion today isn’t what IS wrong with the Lakers but rather what ISN’T wrong with the Lakers.What isn’t wrong with the Lakers is Luke Walton. What is this man expected to do? Why is he being put on blast while Magic and the front office handed him a flawed roster and told him to go be a contender in the West (the WEST). Obviously LeBron is a workhorse in every sense of the word but what about everyone else they went out and got (Love you Rondo, but you have to be lumped into this too, fair is fair)? It’s essentially like Magic gave Walton a Kia with the body of a Ferrari. Its cosmetic, and not even the greatness of LeBron can truly mask what’s wrong with this roster. The team’s makeup is basically a bunch of cast-offs, kids, and LeBron (Hint: That won’t win anything in the West, established star talent wins in the West).
Although he hasn’t done an amazing job, I don’t see why it should all be pinned on him. Yes, the defense has been piss poor (120.7 OPPG 4th worst in the league), and the pieces haven’t come together as planned thus far but we have to take one ultimate variable into account. It’s a LeBron team. Ask Ty Lue, ask David Blatt, ask Mike Brown, Ask Erik Spoelstra, he isn’t the easiest personality to deal with. LeBron is a mega-star and when he agreed to sign wanted input on every team related move. Aka, he’s Coach LeBron, GM LeBron, maybe even Team Owner LeBron. He calls the shots and it’s an arduous task to get that under wraps as a head coach. There’s been a pattern in LeBron’s career where all of his coaches are ostracized for the team’s performances. In the case of Spoelstra, (who was constantly berated for his decisions while coaching LeBron in Miami) it turned out he is a phenomenal head coach and should always have a job in this league. In the end, no matter WHAT Walton does he will be under the microscope because again, it’s LeBron James.
With that in mind, I digress into what has led to this slow start. Grazed over earlier, they give up a ton of points. There’s absolutely no chance of winning NBA games giving up 120+ per night, it just doesn’t happen. Kyle Kuzma (114.7), Lonzo Ball (113.2), LeBron (111), and Ingram (110.5) all hold defensive ratings (number of points a team/player allows per 100 opponent possessions) over 110 and their team defensive rating is at 111.6. This, in a word, this is what I like to call pitiful. To put this into perspective the only teams below them in defensive rating have a combined record of 18-51. Some effort has to be put in on the defensive end by the players and that’s on them.
Another factor is the teams they have played. 7 out of the 10 were playoff teams last year (along with Denver who finished 9th in the west) and besides the Spurs and Raptors none of them went through much overhaul in the offseason. This shows the real power of the West. Last year if the LeBron’s Cavs were reeling they could bank on playing the Bulls or some other trashcan in the East. This year, after his move to hollywood, it’s San Antonio, it’s Portland, and it’s middle of the road teams who would be playoff teams in the East. It isn’t on the coach, it isn’t entirely on the players, I would blame the front office. The expectations for this team were unattainable and it’s showing. Maybe, in the end, Luke Walton isn’t the best guy for the job. That isn’t his fault, he just got thrown into a situation he never could’ve prepared for when he signed with the Lakers 3 summers ago. If he does get fired, I hope someone gives him another shot to show the world he is the great coach basketball minds everywhere said he was.
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