The Lakers Christmas Day loss to the Mavericks summed up the franchise’s season pretty neatly: LeBron James was brilliant (38 points on 13-for-23 shooting) and history-setting (extending his record for most career points scored on Christmas Day), but he didn’t get nearly enough help, and when Luka Doncic did the Mavericks put up 51 points in the third quarter and blew the game open. The Lakers have dropped four straight, are now seven games below .500, and have just started a five-game road trip without Anthony Davis, who has a foot injury.
So yes, LeBron is frustrated and hes’ become more vocal about it in his postgame press conferences. Here are his Christmas Day comments when asked if the Lakers could dig out of this standings hole, as they have done at other points in the first half of this season, via Jovan Buha of The Athletic.
“I look at it the other way too,” said James, who appeared in his 17th game on Christmas Day, eclipsing the previous record of 16 he shared with Kobe Bryant. “Like, how many times are you going to try to dig yourselves out until it’s too much dirt on you?…
“Reality is, without AD, we lose a lot of length, which we don’t have already,” James said. “So we have to make up in ways that, without AD, is very difficult, very challenging. So, I think at one point we had a lineup of I think (Austin Reaves) was the tallest guy on the court. So, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.”
When LeBron signed an extension with the Lakers this summer, he was promised the franchise would do what it took to put a contender around him. Well… here we are. So yes, LeBron has seemed a little frustrated of late.
Are the Lakers going to do anything to ease that frustration at the trade deadline? Don’t bet on it, especially if the losses keep piling up — not because they will tank for a pick, the Pelicans own the Lakers pick this season, but because it would be throwing good money after bad. Via Buha at The Athletic.
Reinforcements via trade would obviously help, and the Lakers are still evaluating their options on a dormant trade market. At the same time, it becomes increasingly challenging to justify trading a first-round pick if the group continues to struggle. The front office doesn’t want to compound its previous mistakes with more win-now moves.
More and more it looks like the Lakers will be open to a trade that involves Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn, a second-round pick and is a deal that does not bring back long-term salary that would cut off future moves. There aren’t many sellers on the trade market right now as it is, and if the Lakers are restricting their sales pitch to those terms, they will not bring much back. What you see is what you get.
If Davis can come back healthy and the Lakers can get on another run they can certainly still make the play-in, and from there the playoffs.
But with LeBron putting up all-NBA numbers as he is about to turn 38, that goal feels hollow. The Lakers needed to be much more.