This season has been one grueling test of faith for the Lakers’ players and their fanbase, and we haven’t even reached the All-Star break yet. While other fans continue to have a field day with the very apparent struggles of the Lakers, the situation only gains more serious with every game for the Lakers. What once were expectations of returning the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Los Angeles in June have turned into hopes of merely making it to the playoffs.
“It’s the little things that are correctable and we just got to find out to correct them instead of continuing to go in this lull. We do have a special group, but it doesn’t matter to our opponents, especially when they see us struggling the way we’re struggling right now. It has to get fixed amongst the players in house, and the most important thing is there has to be a sense of urgency. It has to get fixed quickly.”
The Lakers have simply run out of excuses. Yes, the lineup is currently missing Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill, but it’s not like things were rainbows, unicorns and butterflies before their injuries. The talent is there. The knowledge is there. It’s just not coming together. As James Worthy noted a few days ago, the Lakers are talking about the right things they need to correct; it’s simply not transferring to the court. On top of that time is running out.
The Lakers are in desperation mode now, and the light at the end of the tunnel is rapidly fading. Steve Nash, who has always remained steadfast and optimistic, is now questioning whether they have enough time to turn it around. After the loss in Houston on Tuesday night, Nash responded:
“Now I definitely don’t think there’s a guarantee it will, so the only remedy is continue to work hard and give yourself a chance for it to get better. I obviously think with time, and that might mean through the summer, we can get better. But for this season, it’s definitely going to be a challenge to turn this around.”
The idea of deflating hope for this season to recover from the always-optimistic Nash is a bit troubling for the fanbase. The Lakers are in a funk right now, as the feeling that they cannot catch a break only lowers the team’s morale. The Lakers need a shakeup to revitalize everyone. Whether that means taking a real look and signing free agent such as Kenyon Martin to at least a 10-day contract or making a trade (probably involving Gasol) now instead of waiting for the trade deadline next month, management needs to make a move.
A shakeup would not mean that the Lakers make it to the Finals. Heck, it doesn’t even mean they make it passed the first round. However, things are obviously not working. Mike D’Antoni doesn’t seem to be the right fit for the Lakers, but firing their head coach for the second time in the first half of the season is an incredibly long, long-shot. Therefore, it comes down to either adding new blood or trading for new blood.
While the 35-year-old Martin isn’t the youthful wing player that the Lakers are in need of, especially under D’Antoni’s system, he is the best big man available in free agency right now, and last time I checked their big men are dropping like flies. Martin would add inside defense, rebounding, effort, energy and most importantly motivation to the team. Martin is extremely motivated to prove that he still belongs in the NBA. The Lakers need any type of motivation to get them over this bump, and Martin’s motivation and passion could be just the push they need.
Another idea that that Lakers’ management must act with urgency on is a possible trade. Since a trade around Pau Gasol remains that most likely option, the fact that teams won’t jump for joy to trade for an injured player is yet another hurdle for the Lakers. Gasol’s trade value is low based on his sub-par performance this season. However, there will always be some interest in the still highly skilled Gasol; Lakers management just might have to be the pursuer and get a little creative with a package. Last night’s impressive performance from Earl Clark may push the Lakers into pulling a trigger on a Gasol trade.
Whatever the remedy, the Lakers need to be urgent on the court and in the front office. Free agents like Kenyon Martin won’t be available forever (Knicks are in serious pursuit of him). The front office built this team to win championships. They must stay true to that commitment and make the moves to ensure that that vision happens. Are the Lakers past the point of no return? No, not yet at least. There is still hope as long as they have a guy wearing the number twenty-four on the court.
However, with time running out and the gap in the standings spreading further every night, time for blame, pointing fingers and excuses has come to an end. The Lakers have their backs against the wall and are in desperation mode. A shakeup in the roster may be a necessity at this point to wake these players up. Meanwhile, the players can no longer wait for a turnaround to come. The players have to make it happen themselves. Their effort in San Antonio was a sign of hope; it’s time to build of that.