The dysfunction of the Los Angeles Lakers has reached new heights.
Following public trade-deadline talks that exposed every Laker not named LeBron James as expendable, Los Angeles has lost four of five games and looks increasingly like a team that’s going to miss the playoffs.
One of those losses came against the very team at the center of the trade talks, the New Orleans Pelicans. They just so happened to be playing without Anthony Davis that night.
Two games later, the Lakers hit a new season low in an ugly loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
LeBron called out teammates
The loss prompted James to call out his teammates for “allowing distractions to affect the way you play.”
Lakers’ LeBron James after loss to Grizzlies (via @SpectrumSN): “If you’re still allowing distractions to affect the way you play, this is the wrong franchise to be a part of and you should just come in and be like, ‘Listen, I can’t do this.’” pic.twitter.com/s3gHiuhODx
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 26, 2019
Former Lakers pile on
The struggles have prompted some former prominent Lakers players to join James in criticizing his teammates, most notably Shaquille O’Neal.
O’Neal took James’ teammates to task on the TNT set on Tuesday, basically telling them to man up in the aftermath of trade talks.
“It’s no time to sit and sulk,” O’Neal said. “If you don’t want to be traded or you don’t want to be talked about, step up. LeBron is used to playing with guys who hit shots and make him look good. He’s not having that right now.”
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 27, 2019
O’Neal points to his own trades
O’Neal went on to cite his experience as a journeyman player late in his Hall of Fame career.
“Look, I was traded six times,” O’Neal said. “I never cried about it. You move on. It’s the business of basketball. If you want to be a guy who doesn’t get traded, you’ve got to step up. Period.”
To be clear, O’Neal wasn’t traded six times. The Lakers traded him to the Miami Heat, the Heat traded him to the Phoenix Suns and the Suns traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a total of three trades in his career. He left the Orlando Magic for the Lakers and the Cavs for the Boston Celtics as a free agent.
But O’Neal’s point stands. It sucks to know that your team would consider trading you, but it’s part of the business. Part of being a professional is recognizing that fact.
O’Neal wasn’t the only Hall of Fame Laker with harsh words for James’ teammates.
James Worthy joins in
James Worthy took the Lakers to task after the loss to the Grizzlies, calling out Rajon Rondo by name.
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) February 26, 2019
Some type of virus
“It just seems like there’s some type of virus going on with this team right now,” Worthy said. “Rondo, he’s not mentally in the game. I’ve seen him play over the years. I know when he’s on and when he’s not. He was just pretty much going through the motions tonight. Very detrimental to his team.
“I know this team is better than this. I know they can play better than this. They’re losing to the worst teams in the league. Right now, the word that I think as far as playoffs is very bleak.”
The Lakers sit at 11th place in the Western Conference standings, three games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the last postseason berth with competitive Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves teams above them fighting for the playoffs.
Right now, the Lakers look anything but competitive. Unless something changes in the DNA of the team in fast fashion, bleak is the best way to describe the outlook for the rest of the Lakers season.
This was not the vision when James joined the Lakers in last offseason’s blockbuster move to L.A.
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