The Lakers were in trouble long before the curtains drew on yesterday’s ill-fated match against the league-leading Jazz. True, the loss was the fifth in their last six outings, a reflection of their floundering run of late in the absence of ailing Anthony Davis. It also didn’t help that starting guard Dennis Schröder, whose principal task is to ease the playmaking burden foisted on the overworked LeBron James, had to be held out due to health and safety protocols in the middle of their swoon. On the other hand, symptoms of their malady and malaise had been present even at the turn of the year, and through a seven-game win streak that had them at the top of the National Basketball Association standings.
To be fair, ups and downs are part and parcel of any given campaign. And, if anything, the fickle nature of the sport has been further underscored by the uniqueness of competition while in a pandemic. No one has been spared. In the case of the Lakers, however, the effects have been more apparent given their short turnaround time from their success in the bubble to the start of their title defense. For all the forceful pushback James has been doing on what he terms an erroneous narrative regarding his fitness — or lack thereof — for extended minutes, it’s clear to all and sundry that his efficiency has dipped in conjunction with his extremely high usage rate sans Davis and Schröder on the court to back him up.
Considering the way the Lakers have plodded through their immediate past schedule, they deserve much of the criticism directed their way. Not coincidentally, even fans have taken to second-guessing their commitment to winning. They understand the pressure, of course; achievement breeds high expectations, and the only objective that counts is the one still up for grabs. At the same time, they know from experience that success is a journey, not a destination. Which is why they’re nowhere near to panicking. Not when they have James, and not when the postseason is where everything truly counts.
The Lakers will argue that they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt, and they’re on the mark. After all, the Larry O’Brien Trophy is on their mantel. On the flipside, their very familiarity with the prerequisites for sustained triumph should provide them with the sense of urgency they need to shape their fortunes for the better. Else, more disappointment figures to be in store, and they will have proven naysayers right.
To be fair, ups and downs are part and parcel of any given campaign. And, if anything, the fickle nature of [basketball] has been further underscored by the uniqueness of competition while in a pandemic. No one has been spared.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.