Lakers: The season is over, a rant

Not even 60 games into the regular season, and the season for the Lakers is over. Not over in the sense that a full regular season has been played, but rather, the chances are so slim of making the playoffs, that they’d have to go undefeated and have a few losses for the Clippers and Kings swing their way.

I’m not optimistic.

I would be optimistic if there was something to hang their hat on. The early 90s Lakers lacked talent, but always tried. The Lakers had a clutch point guard in Nick Van Exel and he’d close out Boston Garden with a tough corner 3-pointer.  

Those teams were gritty, fought in the playoffs, and eventually would lose, but guess what…

…they made the playoffs.

We’re year one into LeBron’s career as a Laker. Those who know me are aware of my dissatisfaction with the last Laker draft, and further dissatisfaction with the free agent signings of the past summer. The formula was simple. Keep Brook Lopez, get Shabazz Napier, keep Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and take it from there. They could have added JaVale McGee with Brook Lopez and the Lakers would have began the season with a strong core at the center position, instead of needing to acquire Tyson Chandler to bail the team out for a month.

I was optimistic this season. The Lakers beat Denver, Portland, and other high caliber playoff teams.  

Then the injuries hit.

Then the trade deadline came around.

Then Magic Johnson basically said his version of, “Man up!” by essentially saying the Lakers are professionals. Stop treating them like babies.

As it turns out, the young men that the Laker organization fostered were the professionals. Those were the men that came out with high effort from game to game. Josh Hart pushed through, despite terrible knee tendonitis.  Kyle Kuzma came out with some big scoring games. Brandon Ingram stepped up to another level as a scorer. Lonzo Ball flashed more traditional point guard skills and was successful.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the veterans. Trading for Bullock was great and I wish Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk well, but Ivica Zubac busted his tail for the Lakers too. They rewarded him by trading him to the team next door.

Brilliant move, Lakers. (Sarcasm meter 1000%)

Even the hot start in wins to get the Lakers to the 4th seed, playing above expectations early, wasn’t enough cushion for the team.

One would hope that they start pointing fingers in the right direction. Generally speaking, outside of the Laker youth-core, everyone is to blame. The front office didn’t put the roster in a position to win, and helped create dissension in the locker room. Luke Walton never quite figured out rotations until this past week, and the Laker offense that had been on cruise control for the early part of the season would fall apart with goose eggs for minutes at a time. The veterans, lauded for their playoff experience, look like they’re more ready for Cancun than the playoffs. But the young Laker players? They struggled through, developed, and got better. Did anyone see Kuzma’s 40-point games coming? Brandon Ingram’s defense? Ivica Zubac looking like a double-double monster?Lonzo Ball playing a more traditional role and finding some success?

I didn’t, but that’s part of the fun with young players.

Now: Brandon Ingram is hurt. Lonzo Ball is hurt. Josh Hart is hurt. Kyle Kuzma is hurt. Ivica Zubac is gone.

As a Laker fan, I’m not even looking forward to watching LeBron James play. It’s not fun when he has more effect on the team off-the-floor than on-the-floor, no matter what numbers he puts up.

He’s not galvanizing the team. Rajon Rondo isn’t either. Magic isn’t either. Despite the success of the Lakers young players, the veterans and possibly the front office, don’t believe in them.

I do. You can build a team around character and the Laker young players have shown it, season after season. Brandon Ingram is stepping up as a quiet leader. Lonzo Ball is learning how to command a team on the floor. Josh Hart is finding ways to make positive impact through injury. Kyle Kuzma brings all of the bravado that the team should have.

That’s the team worth building around.

I hope Magic Johnson sees it. For all of the vision on the basketball court, it all fell apart with his idea of roster construction this season and only made it worse with his multiple All-Star ideas.

There are other ways to win too. As it turns out, it may be through the youth-core, not the veterans after all.

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