Lakers’ young core not having fun!
Why the Lakers’ young core needs to get back to playing with the joy and passion that was the key to their early season identity
The Lakers’ young core find themselves facing a must win game against the Mavs in Dallas tonight after yesterday’s blow out loss to the Timberwolves, their third loss in a row and fifth in the last six games since LeBron’s injury.
While playing without LeBron may be challenging, the Lakers’ young core have learned the hard way that it can be even tougher to play without him. Instead of taking advantage of the freedom and opportunity for increased minutes and responsibilities, the kids have instead given in to the pressure and regressed. Since LeBron was injured, the Lakers’ young core of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma, and Hart have struggled mightily, especially on offense.
The problem has been a wild mix of slow starts, careless turnovers, missed free throws, poor rebounding, excessive fouls, and fourth quarter collapses. With LeBron, the Lakers had an offensive rating of 108.8, a defensive rating of 106.5, for a league ninth best net rating of +2.3 points. Since LeBron went down, the Lakers’ offensive rating plummeted to 99.4, their defensive rating held firm at 105.9, for a net rating of -6.5 points, seventh worst in the league.
Watching the team get blown out in the first quarter of the last two games by the hapless Knicks and Wolves has raised legitimate concerns that the Lakers’ young core has been grossly overrated and are not ready yet for prime time. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart need to put on their big boy shorts tonight and get back to playing with the joy and passion that was the key to their early season identity if they want beat the Mavs tonight.
Maybe someone should have called for the proverbial ‘player’s meeting’ or done something to motivate the team to come out ready to play as the Lakers’ young core desperately needs to win to restore their trust and confidence. Maybe Luke Walton calling out Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to play with “more passion” will inspire the Lakers’ young core to forget all the pressure and just come out and play the game hard and have fun like they used to do.
In any event, tonight’s game will officially mark the end of the first half of the season and the Lakers need to forget about their struggles and come out of the gate ready to play their best game of the season and blow out the Mavs. That means Lonzo needs to score, Ingram needs to move the ball, and Kuzma and Hart need to hit their threes. And everybody on the team needs to play hard and smart at both ends, trust their teammates, and win the 50/50 balls.
The Lakers’ young core are at a crisis point in their growth and development. They need a blow out win tonight to wash away all the frustration and futility and bring back the joy and fun that was their trademark early in the season.