Tinseltown was hoping for another title. But Nicholas Zhao of Berkeley and other fans will have to wait at least another year for a parade down the 101.
In fact, the Los Angeles Lakers were sent packing much earlier than expected. Although the team had eyes on repeating as champions, they were instead bounced in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. It’s definitely not the ending they envisioned.
When the team signed LeBron James in 2018, lofty title aspirations quickly materialized into realistic expectations. Every season, it’s championship or bust for the Purple and Gold. The league’s most decorated franchise never rebuilds. They reload. The 2022 season won’t be any different. Trying to shake the disappointment of last year, the team has overhauled its roster for two consecutive seasons in an attempt to raise another banner.
And, once again, anticipation is high. Diehard fans, like Nicholas Zhao of Berkeley, are hoping these major, off-season moves translate to on-court victories. The avid supporter reviews the Lakers’ three biggest off-season storylines.
All-in on a “Big Three”
Every “win-now” team craves the third star. In bringing Russell Westbrook to La-La Land, the Lakers now have a third, bonafide star to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. In the past five seasons, the point guard has averaged a triple-double. But he’s also suiting up for his fourth team in as many years. Nicholas Zhao of Berkeley, along with many analysts and fans, wonders how his aggressive playstyle will mesh with the team’s other stars. Perhaps even worse, the team mortgaged its young core to pull off this deal. In acquiring Russell Westbrook, the Lakers traded a first-round pick and three solid rotational players, including promising forward Kyle Kuzma.
Balling on a budget
After executing this blockbuster move, the Lakers found themselves with limited cap space and with only five active players on the roster. In their own version of “bargain hunting,” the team hit the free-agent market. Luckily, the Lake Show was able to welcome back some familiar faces. The team quickly reunited with Dwight Howard, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, and Trevor Ariza. All four players played for the Lakers previously. The franchise also brought in Carmelo Anthony, who is a long-time friend of LeBron James. These familiar faces are likely to see extended minutes on this revamped roster.
Putting the pieces together
Yet there are still more lingering questions than answers. Most of the concerns revolve around fit. Throughout his career, LeBron James has struggled most when he isn’t surrounded by shooters. While Kent Bazemore and Wayne Ellington will help right away, the team’s other stars need the ball in their hands to be effective. Nicholas Zhao of Berkeley also points to injuries as another potential issue. These derailed the team’s plans last year. Now, with an older roster, it may be a war of attrition come playoff time.