The team – so accustomed to success – endured a difficult 2021/22 season, failing to reach the playoffs after an eight-game losing streak at the end of the season saw them eliminated.
From questionable offseason moves to injuries and failing stars, there have been a litany of reasons for the team’s disappointing season.
And with so many questions surrounding the team’s future — a new head coach will need to be found and the roster will need to be rebuilt with limited tools — the future around the Lakers looks decidedly uncertain.
Two years ago, the Lakers were world champions.
Behind a stifling defense and their two superstars — James and Davis — the team won the 2020 NBA title in Florida’s Covid-19 safe bubble.
But this season’s version of the team is a shadow of that.
After last season’s playoff loss to the Phoenix Suns — a playoff series in which Davis suffered a game-changing injury — a roster overhaul took place.
The team traded for 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Westbrook from the Washington Wizards in exchange for a first-round pick, two future second-round picks and a cast of previously important players – Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
With the addition of Westbrook, the Lakers believed they were in a prime position for a championship run, and the bookies agreed with them.
Like when the Golden State Warriors brought in Kevin Durant to join Steph Curry and Klay Thompson — a team that won two titles — Lakers fans thought they might have had their own “Big Three.”
LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook: Sounds pretty good, right?
However, from the start, it was obvious that all was not well.
From problem to problem
The Lakers are usually one of the most talked-about teams each year in the NBA, but with James and Davis paired with Westbrook, their season’s prospects have dominated the airways.
With endless amounts of hype behind them and fans clamoring to see the King, the Brow and Brodie for the first time, the Lakers opened the season with a home game against the Warriors.
Despite 34 points from James and 33 from Davis, LA disappointed home fans with a 121-114 loss.
But this is only the first game, right? They are still warming up.
A convincing home loss to the Phoenix Suns followed three days later.
But they are two of the best teams, aren’t they? It will get better.
This was not the case. The team went 4-3 in October and 8-8 in November as they struggled for consistency. A Vogel Lakers team has already had dinner for their defense. But this team – with older veteran players and less flexibility – couldn’t count on that.
And the offensive cohesion was not there either.
The James and Davis relationship has always been key to the Lakers’ success, with other actors happy to play their part. Adding Westbrook didn’t seem to work, with another player dominating the ball disrupting the team, leading to swinging results.
Then, on December 17, Davis limped off the field after suffering a knee injury. It was later confirmed that he sprained his left MCL.
The removal of Davis – James’ Batman Robin – was a devastating blow for the Lakers.
Davis missed 17 games, returning in late January, only to suffer a right ankle injury that again sidelined him.
Without Davis, the Lakers were a team devoid of quality, and although James had a dominant season – albeit his 19th in the league – they couldn’t overcome it.
In total, the Lakers’ “Big Three” only played 21 games together due to injuries, which limited the time to build chemistry.
Their failure to qualify for the playoffs, with the amount of money and business capital invested in the team, was seen as a huge failure, and one from which Vogel did not escape with his work.
Despite missing the playoffs for only the fourth time in his long and storied career, 38-year-old James says he has no intention of going anywhere.
“I came here to win a championship and I want to win more,” James told reporters on Monday. “So I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, but I’m always hungry for more. I’m convinced that this organization wants the same thing. That’s what this organization has always been.
“I also wanted to change the narrative and how this franchise can compete at a high level again. They’ve won decades and decades and decades.
But yeah, when I signed here, when Magic (Johnson) was there and Rob (Pelinka) was there — Rob is still there — I told them I wanted to help this franchise be a champion again. I did that, we did that, but I want to do it again.”
New guy in town
A lightning rod for most of the team’s problems has been Westbrook.
One of the league’s most dynamic players in his prime, Westbrook is a potential Hall of Fame player, but his trade to Los Angeles was his third in four years as he struggles to find a place to play. long-term landing.
With his large contract commitment – the team’s highest-paid player – and high transaction price, Westbrook had to come in and play.
His presence on the pitch has been erratic this year, however, with snippets of some of his plays this season becoming points of ridicule, with fans even calling him ‘Westbrick’ – a brick is a pejorative term used to describe a miss. looking ugly. off the rim.
Such was the level of criticism directed at him and his family that Westbrook came out and asked people to stop using the nickname.
“I kind of let it go in the past because it never really bothered me. But it really hit me the other day.
“My wife and I were at teacher-parent conferences for my son. And the teacher was like, ‘Noah, he’s so proud of his last name. He writes it everywhere. He writes it on everything. He tells everyone and walks around and says, ‘I’m Westbrook.’
“And I was kind of sitting there in shock, and it hit me, like, ‘Damn. I can’t allow people anymore [to besmirch my name].'”
And while Westbrook has had moments, his future with the team looks uncertain. His big contract makes it difficult to trade him, but his chemistry on the pitch with his teammates doesn’t seem to be long term.
However, after the season ended, Westbrook believes he never had a fair chance, citing his relationship with Vogel.
With an aging team and question marks throughout the team, the offseason promises to be long in the “City of Angels”.