The Los Angeles Lakers have had more than their fair share of issues and controversies throughout the 2018-2019 playoff season. From the sudden resignation of Magic Johnson to the abrupt firing of Luke Watson, to the less-than-average performance of LeBron James, the season was a mixed bag of wins and disappointment for Lakers fans all over the country. While the franchise managed to team LeBron James up with another basketball superstar, Anthony Davis, the Lakers have been unsuccessful in signing Tyronn Lue to the fold, especially since it was Lue who led LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2016 championship.
The Los Angeles Lakers held their ground well into the beginning of the season and for a while bagged some decisive wins. Perhaps they had their greatest moment of the season when they crushed the Golden State Warriors on Christmas day in a spectacular blowout, but just when things seemed to be going in the right direction, LeBron James came down with an injury to his groin. While the Los Angeles Lakers experienced brief moments of wins in 2018-2019, they witnessed more defeats than victories and were eventually knocked out of the season on the basis of multiple cases of player injuries.
Despite his extraordinary prowess, unbeatable skill and oodles of talent, LeBron James was not able to save the day for the Los Angeles Lakers, who were officially eliminated from the playoff contentions when they lost to the Brooklyn Nets. When LeBron signed a $154 million contract with the franchise which covered a period of four years, hope was high at the Lakers’ front office, especially among those who believed that LeBron James would be enough to bring back the League to its former glory. However, as we all witnessed, LeBron sustained an injury and missed more games in 2018-2019 than at any other point in his sports career.
Despite his incomparable greatness, LeBron James, arguably the best and most experienced player on the team, was not able to carry the mantle for the Lakers. At his age (34 years), LeBron is too old to lead the franchise to the splendid performance they had expected of him. The season proved to be a postseason disaster for the Lakers, and signing LeBron James could well be the worst mistake of the league. As Tom Ziller in his article, ‘The Lakers found the limits of LeBron James’ power,’ commented: “As interesting and meaningful as finding the extent of a superhero’s powers is finding their limits. So it goes with LeBron James, who has been showing us what he is capable of for 16 seasons and is now showing us what even he cannot do.”
Soon after LeBron James had his groin injury, Rajon Rondo and Lonzo Ball followed suit. Rajon Rondo, a four-time NBA All-Star, suffered a Grade 3 sprain in his right ring finger. In the absence of both LeBron James and Rajon Rondo, the team was heavily relying on Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. However, as fate had it, the injuries on the Los Angeles Lakers kept piling up throughout the season, and the situation could not have gotten worse than Lonzo Ball also falling victim to an ankle injury with a Grade 3 sprain. With the Lakers stripped of their three top performers, the Lakers stats took a nosedive and suffered multiple losses. Finally, they fell to the 10th seed in the West.
Besides LeBron James, Rajon Rondo and Lonzo Ball, both Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka (two names in the Lakers’ front-office powerhouse) were busy signing and enlisting a number of non-shooters and mercurial players on the team. Their argument was that the franchise needed experienced playmakers and basketball veterans in order to share and ease the burden on LeBron James. What they actually needed, as we saw in the Lakers stats later, were shooting specialists who could open up more space on the floor. For a while, it seemed that JaVale McGee, the Lakers’ veteran center, could save the day for them with his above-average performance, but the collective ineffectiveness displayed by the foursome of Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo, let everyone down.
Los Angeles Lakers absolutely blew it this season. It is possible they were never meant to win a championship with so much going on, but they were not supposed to perform this badly, right? The Los Angeles Lakers had been in troubled waters already when LeBron joined them last July. In fact, they had been demonstrating poor performance for the last five seasons. However, LeBron was brought on board for the sole purpose of turning the game around for the Lakers. However, not even this legendary player’s presence on the team could prevent a straight sixth missed postseason for the Lakers. Maybe the team, as well as the fans, had harbored unrealistic expectations from the NBA All-Star, but the fact remains that one man, with a modest supporting cast, cannot produce miracles.
At Staples Center, a fight ignited between some of the Lakers and Houston Rockets players right in the middle of LeBron James’ first home game. We also saw tension mounting between point-guard-turned-team President Johnson and Coach Luke Walton when the former summoned the latter after just eight games (five of which were dismal losses) and lectured him on the Lakers’ painstakingly sluggish start. As the news leaked out in the media, President Johnson attempted to undo the damage by playing down the suggestion that Walton was soon to be fired. In retrospect, Walton is not without blame in the Lakers’ struggle throughout the NBA season. As the Lakers stats would show, Walton’s decisions on players’ rotations, lineups and overall efficiency have repeatedly been questioned. In fact, his refusal to recruit one of the experienced coaches as his assistant did not go down well with the league’s management, and he was eventually let off.
What can be considered as the best day for the Los Angeles Lakers, if only the box scores in the Lakers stats are considered, is also one of the lowest points for the franchise this season. On Christmas Day, the Lakers headed to Oakland for one of the most televised and anticipated slots on the season’s calendar. The Lakers flattened the twice-defending champions – the Golden State Warriors – and capped an amazing 18-9 surge that pushed the Lakers’ record to 20-14. However, this was the game in which LeBron James suffered his groin injury as he stretched to regain a loose ball in the third quarter. While the Lakers had to manage without him for the rest of the game, LeBron’s injury turned out to be one of the most serious he had ever sustained in his career. He failed to show up for the next seventeen games, which cost the Lakers a lot more than anyone could have anticipated. No injuries prior to this season had LeBron sidelined for more than a total of eight games. Losing LeBron to his groin injury had severe consequences for the Lakers in the NBA season of 2018-2019, as it was the biggest blow to the franchise’s playoff contentions.
Above all else, what this season proved for the Los Angeles Lakers is that they need more than just a big shot like LeBron James to make the playoffs work for them. Relying too much on one player, no matter how talented or extraordinary he is, cannot bring instant success or excellence to a team that is already struggling. Some of the players on the franchise are still dealing with various kinds of injuries and fitness problems. Lakers’ veteran center Tyson Chandler, who kept up a strong defence for the team after joining the franchise in November, is also suffering from a neck ailment. Josh Hart, the second-year guard with tons of promise, has been struggling with tendinitis in his left knee for several months. And the Lakers’ ultimate swingman and scorer, Brandon Ingram, also missed a number of games due to his shoulder and ankle issues. He eventually bailed out on the rest of the NBA season with deep vein thrombosis.
For the upcoming mid-summer season, the Los Angeles Lakers have decided to trade off Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three more 1st round picks for star player Anthony Davis in a bid to shift the balance of power in the Lakers’ favor for the next few NBA seasons. Lakers fans were awaiting the signing of Davis for many months now. Now Davis and LeBron can team up as the cream of Los Angeles. Because both are also two of the top fifteen players in the NBA rankings, their pairing holds a lot of promise. With Davis on board, the Los Angeles Lakers will have two superstars playing on the team. The question, however, remains how the franchise plans to utilize their remaining cap space and what would be the best course of action in the next season.