The Los Angeles Lakers, losers of eight straight games, are in free fall. After a thrilling start to the season that saw them pick up surprising wins over some of the NBA’s best, the team has been besieged by injuries and inconsistent play.
Now, with the Lakers desperate to end the streak of losses and right the ship while on an East Coast road trip, the team hunkered down to practice at Temple University before they take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. It was there that reserve big men Tarik Black and Thomas Robinson addressed the team, hoping to stoke the fire and put the team back on track.
According to Mark Medina of the Orange County Register, Black stepped up first and addressed the team’s attitude:
“Be humbled by the fact that we have the opportunity to play basketball,” Black said afterward. “Step it up. We’re working hard, so not step it up as if we’re playing lazy. But step it up in our humility for the game.”
Black, who is in his third season as a Laker, is known for his leadership, so it’s no surprise that he was one of the players to speak to the team, and he correctly points out that while the Lakers haven’t seen a lack of effort, they are overlooking some of the little things. Of course, injuries have robbed them of some of their chemistry, with Black himself missing the last five games with a sprained ankle.
Robinson, on the other hand, is in his first year as a Laker and was something of a surprise to make the squad. Still, he also made his own point to the team:
“To see us getting outhustled and older teams playing harder than us on the defensive end, it’s mind-boggling,” Robinson said afterward. “I know that’s not us. Coming into the season, we weren’t that. We were scrappy. We got after people. That led to playing fun basketball.”
While Robinson does seem to blame a lack of effort, he also mentions a lack of scrappiness, which may be a better description. The Lakers have hustled, but teams have been able to exploit mistakes on the defensive end. It appears to be more mental lapses than anything else, which will be tested when they take on the 76ers and their interior duo of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor.