“Keep talking about my squad, our personnel ages, the way he plays, he stays injured, we’re past our time in this league, etc etc etc. Do me one favor PLEASE!!!! And I mean PLEASE!!! 🙏🏾 Keep that same narrative ENERGY when it begins! That’s all I ask.” This was LeBron's first reaction one everyone pointed out the elephant in the room - that Russell Westbrook is a horrible fit, and the Lakers are not title contenders. Despite the fact no one knows what "narrative ENERGY" is, seems like LeBron's the one who had to change it.
“Should've got beating by 50”
It'd be interesting to get a bit more detail from LeBron. What doesn't "better" exactly mean? Are we talking offense or defense? Making the playoffs via the play-in tournament or straight from one of the top 6 spots? But getting answers would require James to talk to someone who's not connected to Klutch or a former teammate, so we can kiss that idea goodbye.
Nevertheless, one of LeBron's former teammates has an idea where the Lakers should start. After an embarrassing loss to the Nuggets, Channing Frye explained why he called a blowout in the first few minutes of the game. (as confirmed by his co-hosts Greg Anthony and Nabil Karim)
“You could see it early. It's hard to be that bad. They [the Lakers] should've got beaten by 50.”
Channing Frye, postgame show
But Frye didn't talk about airballs and turnovers. As much as Westbrook's addition created a lot of those, the Lakers no.1 problem is being horrible on defense. “They were double-teaming for no reason. They were not rotating. Guys were not communicating. I've seen some bad basketball - this is one of the worst games I've seen from a team that has good players on it. There was no passionate energy from the Lakers, which I find upsetting as a basketball player.”
You'd think that with AD out, the Nuggets dominated because Nikola Jokić had a field day, and you'd be wrong. The top two scorers against the Lakers were Bones Hyland with 27 and Jeff Green with 26 points. This was just a disaster on defense, and defense was what won the Lakers the bubble title.
What's Frank Vogel supposed to do? The man who coached the Lakers to the bubble title as the best defense in the game only got a one-year extension. After that, LeGM decided that Westbrook for everyone is a better idea than Buddy Hield for only some of the young players on the roster. And now Vogel is supposed to bench someone, or yell at them for not making the right rotations?
This is LeBron's mess, and he can't carry the Lakers in 2022 as he did the Cavs five-six years ago. He's not that player anymore, this is not the 2017 Eastern Conference, and he's never had as bad of a star teammate as Westbrook is right now.
Lakers fans can fantasize about the trade deadline if it helps, but Westbrook's not getting traded. No one is giving anything of consequence for such a limited player who has a $47 million player option for '22/'23. Until recently, I thought that the only Lakers chance for a Finals appearance is for Davis to return as the most durable player in the game.
But the way the Lakers have been playing, I'm not convinced that would be enough. We always thought Father Time catching up to LeBron would be the start of his decline. Turns out it's LeGMing that did it.