After a tough loss to the 76ers, LeBron James sent a mysterious and ominous message about where the Lakers will go next.
LeBron James is a man who is very cautious about his words and knows the weight of his words. Two decades in the spotlight have made him very aware of how his words will be interpreted, for better or worse.
That kind of context is necessary to express your postgame thoughts after the Lakers’ loss on Monday. It was the worst loss of LeBron’s long career, and he reacted like someone who had just suffered the worst loss of his career.
LeBron’s answer was very concise, only two or three words. The only time he said more than a few words was when he was asked what changes the Lakers needed to make after this game.
“What needs to change to avoid this happening again? “A lot. “
It’s both mysterious and ominous, an impressive display of efficiency that reflects LeBron’s greatness on the court in just two words.
The remaining challenge, then, is determining what LeBron means by “a lot,” and deciphering how serious this loss really is. Things are not as simple as fans often think, and the nuances matter.
It’s hard to overstate how difficult it is to win games when four rotation players are out. This is not a one-time absence, but rather a cumulative impact that continues to snowball throughout the season.
If it’s an evening and a lot of people are sitting together, it will be easier to brush off the failure and move on. In a sense, because players have been injured all season long and those injuries are not new, it’s easier to overlook the impact of their absence.
It’s especially difficult to win without four players when they all have very similar roles. Jared Vanderbilt, Cam Reddish and Rui Hachimura are the four forward/wing players the Lakers don’t have. This leaves Max Christie’s shoes too big to fill and allows Taurean Prince, who has struggled in recent weeks, to continue to play and start when under normal circumstances Next time, he was already sitting on the bench.
Dealing with such bad injury luck all season long is exhausting and tiring for the current crop of players. There’s nothing they or anyone else can do about it, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying to deal with.
With so many players down, it will take everyone to keep up their performance. They did it in Cleveland a few days ago, but that game also showed the uphill battle the Lakers currently face. Seven of the eight players in the rotation scored in double figures, and the team still won by a slim margin.
Photograph: David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
All of these are important things to remember and paint part of the team’s current mental state. But that doesn’t explain all of Monday’s losses.
First, it should be noted that garbage time does inflate the final score to a certain extent. When the starters came out, the lead was 27 points, which isn’t respectable, but it doesn’t hold the same weight as “the worst loss of LeBron’s career.” The Lakers, who came in garbage time, were terrible, and Davon Hamm said the same thing after the game.
But the Lakers also showed warning signs worth acknowledging. For example, the Lakers offense is terrible.
After Monday’s loss, they ranked 25th in offensive efficiency. They ran into a lot of pitfalls as they tried to adapt to a five-and-out offense, and that was most evident in their 3-point shooting.
Although the purpose of the 5-and-out offense is to create space, the Lakers rank 29th in 3-point attempts and 3-point percentage.
While they are in the middle of the pack in terms of corner 3-point attempts (18th), they are one of the worst teams in the league in terms of non-corner 3-point attempts (26th), according to Cleaning The Glass Bit).
And their shooting performance is above their level. Based on the number of shots they take, if they hit the league average on all shots, their effective field goal percentage would rank 14th in the league. Currently, they are ranked tenth.
So while part of the problem is that the Lakers’ shooters aren’t knocking down 3-pointers, the problem goes deeper than that. While you can point to injuries, the injured players are not all offensive players who can save the day.
Rui is undoubtedly a strong offensive player, but the team already has enough of him this season that the numbers reflect his availability. Gabe Vincent, Vanderbilt and Reddish? These players’ defensive impact is equal to or greater than their offensive impact.
Again, while keeping players healthy can solve some problems, it doesn’t solve them all. That probably added to LeBron’s frustration as much as anything else on Monday.
The Lakers are now trying to solve math problems by reciting the alphabet. They made changes to an offense that has done more harm than good in most cases this year.
This doesn’t mean giving up everything. A lot of good things happened and results were achieved this year. Daven Ham has many strengths as a coach, particularly his ability to connect with his players and keep them engaged, but they haven’t been appreciated enough. Firing him, an extreme that too many fans jump to too quickly, is not the answer to this problem.
And, in theory, it makes sense to switch to this 5-out system. Perhaps with different personnel or a redesigned approach it could gain benefit.
But 18 games into the season is enough of a sample size to determine if things are working.
A lot of things need to change.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter: @Jacobrud.