The Los Angeles Lakers have a long history of success in the NBA, but the 2016-2017 team is a far cry from the championship squads that have worn the purple and gold in years past. During their glory days, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant could practically spot teams points and still come back and win in the fourth quarter, when the game was on the line. The Showtime teams of the 80’s were always just one stop and one magical fast break from getting momentum on their side and igniting the roaring fans at the Great Western Forum.
This year’s team, however, is patched together with aging veterans and talented young players who haven’t quite figured out how to win in the NBA. They can’t afford to fall behind in a game, because when that happen the margin of error becomes slim, and youngsters are known for making mistakes.
Case in point, the Lakers found themselves down 17-0 against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, and while they eventually caught up, they couldn’t sustain the effort throughout the game and lost by 11. Afterward, head coach Luke Walton explained to Bill Oram of the Orange County Register that his team simply can’t afford to come out flat:
“It’s a good example of what’s going to happen to us if we’re not engaged in the fight to start,” he said. “These are good teams we’re playing against. We can’t afford to start a game without that edge on us.”
Of course, with draft lottery ping pong balls at stake, the Lakers are better served by losing right now than winning. Still, Walton is charged with developing the young talent so that future teams can find success where this one failed.
It’s important that the young Lakers, like D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram, use this lost season to learn lessons that will aid them down the line. Only the best of the best can afford to begin a game unprepared and expect to win, and the young Lakers don’t project to be at that level anytime soon. It’s going to take unrelenting grit and hard work to turn things around, and that’s a lesson that will have to be learned if progress is going to be made.