Sometimes when you are driving on the freeway you see a bunch of flashing red and blue lights and hear sirens and you just can’t help but take a peek as you go by. Most of the time it is a car accident but sometimes it is the 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers team.
The Lakers are one of the most iconic sports franchises of all time (I mean, there’s a freaking show about the Lakers airing on HBO right now) so it is nothing but fun to see them fail. It’s like watching the Yankees fail to make the World Series or seeing the Cowboys have another mediocre season. One day in the far, far future it will be like witnessing the University of Alabama football team not be one of the best teams in the country. People love when David beats Goliath but they love it, even more, when Goliath beats himself. That is exactly what the Lakers did this season.
It had already gotten pretty bad when they managed to not even qualify for the play-in tournament, meaning they weren’t even in the top 10 in the Western Conference. But on Sunday it got even worse when the season concluded and the Lakers announced that they were firing head coach Frank Vogel (in the most predictable sports move since Michael Jordan’s unretiring). It got even better (or worse if you actually like the Lakers) when Vogel said that he hadn’t been told shit about the prospective firing when asked about it in the postgame press conference.
But really the firing of their head coach was just the cherry on top of the garbage dump sundae that was the Lakers this year.
It all started with the Russell Westbrook trade in the offseason. If you asked 100 NBA fans if they wanted to add a former MVP to their favorite team they would all say yes, if you told them that former MVP would be Westbrook they would all punch you in the face, steal your wallet, and run away instead. Westbrook put up 18.5 points per game on 44.4/29.8/66.7 shooting. Those aren’t terrible numbers on paper but they were on the court. He also turned the ball over the second-most times in the league (295). Westbrook never fit in the offense and didn’t end up being worth the players they gave up to get him.
Then you have the Anthony Davis problems. Davis is like a set of car keys, everything goes great when you have them but once they are nowhere to be found everything just goes terrible. The problem wasn’t what AD did on the court, it is that he could barely ever get on the court. He played in just 40 games this year, which is not what you want to see from a 28-year-old superstar player. It wouldn’t be a big deal if missing games was a one-year, fluke thing for him but Davis wouldn’t have even played a full season if you add up how many games he played in the past two seasons (76).
Now, what truly makes this Lakers season the beautiful disaster that it has been is that they may have wasted one of the most impressive seasons in the career of LeBron James. He averaged a staggering 30.3 points per game at the age of 37, yet we won’t get to watch even one minute of him in the playoffs. He achieved those numbers playing next to players such as Carmelo Anthony, Austin Reeves, Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson, and Dwight Howard. Those guys are certainly not the 2012 Miami Heat or the 2017 Cleveland Cavaliers. James put forth an absolute vintage season (when he doesn’t exactly have very many of those left) and the Lakers rewarded him by finishing behind the New Orleans Pelicans, whom they acquired Anthony Davis from.
James is not totally innocent in this situation. He had to have been a supporter of the Westbrook trade, otherwise, it never would have happened. He went into this season knowing the limitations of this team better than anyone but he still told the haters to keep that same energy when they put it all together and figured it out. Well, that never happened. Now the Lakers are looking at a team next year with a 38-year-old James, a still-banged-up Davis, and a 47-million-dollar Westbrook. It probably sucks to be a Lakers fan right now but for the rest of us, we can’t look away.