The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in more than just uncharted waters, but in a rather colossal avalanche of bad news after slipping out of the playoff picture following the All-Star break.
Carmelo Anthony seemed poised to become a Laker after the franchise struck out in efforts to trade for Anthony Davis before the trade deadline, but now he has seemingly second-guessed his decision to sign with the franchise, putting a pause on negotiations given the franchise’s grim chances of making the postseason and lackluster chemistry entering the last 19 games of the season.
The franchise had a feint 6 percent chance of making the playoffs coming off two losses before the mid-February festivities, including a 2-4 record with LeBron James, who was sidelined for 17 straight games after injuring his groin during a Christmas Day win over the Golden State Warriors.
Those odds have been reduced to a mere 1 percent at this point, with the Lakers only mustering a 4-8 record after their star’s return to the lineup (4-7 with LBJ in the lineup), capped by a horrifying loss to the bottom-dwelling Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.
Los Angeles, which was initially thought to be the premier destination for high-level stars like Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis, now is largely being viewed as an undesirable spot after George turned down a chance to return to his hometown to strengthen his bond with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
Leonard once seemed primed to wind up with the Lakers when he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs, but he’s instead expected to sign with the hallway rival LA Clippers during the upcoming summer, barring a chain of unforeseen circumstances.
Davis made it clear he hoped to play alongside James in Los Angeles, but he saw his plan to strong-arm the New Orleans Pelicans into a trade backfire, having a wrecking-ball effect on the team’s chemistry and also ruining any chance at star-worthy playing time with the Pelicans.
The Lakers were at their last straw, hoping Carmelo Anthony could re-awaken his perennial scoring abilities and bring this roster a much-needed jolt of energy to finish out the season. But even Melo — the one decimated by the Houston Rockets after 10 games, waived by the tanking Atlanta Hawks and the dice-rolling Chicago Bulls — is apparently saying “thanks, but no thanks” to the purple and gold.
Los Angeles has indeed hit a new low after it was once thought to be in the middle of a Showtime revival that saw newly honored All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell set sail for the Brooklyn Nets in favor of a prospective Lonzo Ball, but now being one of the most undesirable spots for free agents.
Melo is hoping to close out his season on a good note, in what has been a major step down from being the third scoring option with the Thunder last season. Yet a reunion with longtime draftmate LeBron James is far from his desired outcome at this point, with the Lakers looking more and more like a team that should throw in the towel and put all their chips in devising a way to land Anthony Davis this summer.
So, how did we get here?
The reality is that Los Angeles still boasts the same splendor with the bright lights, the courtside celebrities, the nightlife, the palm trees and the mass appeal of not just a big-time metropolis, but one of the highest-appraised NBA markets. Yet losing is what has turned a fresh-off-the-factory Barbie into a rag doll no one wants any part of.
Under whatever circumstances, the Lakers are losing and doing so embarrassingly, already holding recent Ls against lottery teams like the Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies and Suns, not to mention a disastrous 42-point loss to the injury-laden Indiana Pacers, who had just lost their leading scorer in Victor Oladipo.
Be it for whatever reasons it may be — poor roster construction, chemistry, coaching, strength of conference or to some … solely on LeBron — the truth is that these 2018-19 Lakers are now at rock bottom and will be best served finding an identity than attempting a get-rich-quick scheme to get them back in contention.
Sometimes the process of learning how to win relies on first realizing when it’s time to wave the white flag and re-assess what matters.
The Lakers have hit a new low and it’s not pretty, but neither is the lack of identity, accountability and all-around lack of resolve to dig themselves out of their rut and ask the real questions to those weeds rapidly growing in front of their very eyes.