The Lakers’ season from hell is finally, mercifully, over. The NBA’s glamor franchise slumped to a seventh-straight defeat, this time to the Phoenix Suns, to fall out of contention for even a place in the play-in tournament.
For the second time in LeBron James’ four seasons in Los Angeles, the team has failed to reach the postseason. It is a humiliating low, given the star-studded team was one of the strongest favorites to win the championship.
And the reaction to their dismal new low – 48 losses with three games yet to play – has been swift and damning.
Watch the 21/22 NBA Season with ESPN on Kayo. Live coverage every week plus every game of the NBA Finals. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now>
From the front office’s litany of mistakes now stretching back seasons, to coach Frank Vogel who is all-but-certain to be axed in the coming days, to underperforming players, no one has been spared.
Former NBA champion Kendrick Perkins stated: “This Lakers team not making the playoffs is one (of) the Biggest Disappointments in NBA HISTORY !!! It’s one thing to underachieve in the Playoffs but not to make it at all is RIDICULOUS. Carry on…. ”
Before the season, Perkins predicted the Lakers could win as many as 70 regular-season games. They’ll finish the campaign having won less than half that number.
Sam Quinn wrote for CBS: “This season was not just an abject failure. It was an embarrassment. ”
He added that the humiliating result of missing the playoffs – for the seventh time in nine seasons, no less – was what the franchise needed to force a radical rebuild.
“No, the Lakers needed to be embarrassed. They needed this season to end in such a humiliating fashion that the franchise’s powerbrokers could no longer ignore just how bad they’ve allowed things to get… There is a fundamentally broken team in need of swift and decisive action from supposed organizational leaders in order to be fixed. ”
That is set to include the sacking of coach Vogel, who said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ at their season – before claiming the team had ‘put in the work’ this campaign.
“We wanted to play our part in bringing success to Laker basketball and we fell short. It’s not been due to a lack of effort. We have all put in the work.
“Guys stayed fighting right to the end. We brought integrity to the process we just fell short through a disjointed season. We’re all disappointed. ”
But he soon undercut that own claim by conceding the Lakers failed to respond when their backs were against the wall in recent games, desperately needing to start winning to keep their season alive.
“We’ve been playing for our lives for the last five, six, seven games,” Vogel said. “It didn’t change anything.”
The threat of missing out on the play-offs – or even the 10th-place seed which would have booked them a play-in tournament berth – did nothing to inspire the insipid Lakers in recent games.
They failed to win consecutive games since early January, and slumped to seven-straight defeats including today’s loss, which perfectly summed up the season.
As Harrison Faigen wrote for Silver Screen and Roll: “For a Lakers team that has mastered the art of laying down once an opponent shows the slightest bit of fight or ability, and possesses the collective spiritual resilience of a frog being boiled alive, it was a fitting end to their season. ”
There were plenty of excuses, which began when Vogel noted the ‘disjointed season’ the team faced.
That included a Covid-19 outbreak, horrible management from the front office over the roster and trades, but most importantly of all injuries to star players.
The all-star trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook were meant to guide the team to greatness. Instead, they played together just 21 times for the season.
In fact, 24 different players took to the floor for the team this campaign – and there were more starting combinations (39) than wins (31).
Anthony Davis said: “I feel like we had the pieces, but injuries got in the way of that. That was the difference in our season. ”
Westbrook was lost for answers as to why the season went so horrendously.
“There’s not one thing,” he said. “There’s so many different things that happened but I don’t like to point fingers or blame anyone.”
Westbrook replied “That’s the plan,” when asked if he would run it back with the Lakers next campaign. “But nothing is promised,” he added.
He’s set to earn $ 47m USD on a player-option next season, the most of any LA player. But the Lakers will surely look to cut their losses on an experiment that has implemented an abject failure, given his hefty contract leaves no room to reshape their roster.
Westbrook has conducted an expensive experiment, and not just in dollars. Westbrook was traded for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma, plus Montrezl Harrell and a first-round draft pick.
The Lakers had their trio of stars, and filled out their roster with aging bit-part players. When injuries struck, that top-heavy approach came back to bite them – and the age of their supporting cast showed in a lack of defensive effort all campaign.
Former 14-year-old NBA professional Brendan Haywood delivered an excoriating rant about the state of the franchise on NBA TV, labeling Vogel ‘a sacrificial lamb’ and that the team ‘wasn’t going to work this year’ regardless of who was in charge.
Haywood said: “The Lakers roster is going to be totally different next year. But I think Frank Vogel is more of a sacrificial lamb than anything else. He’s paying for the sins of this roster not being constructed the right way.
“The champions before the Bucks were who? The Lakers. I know it was a bubble but they were the best team in the bubble and he was a major part of why they were such a good team from a defensive standpoint. He did an excellent coaching job.
“We all know Frank Vogel can coach. But Frank Vogel is a coach, not a magician!
“If you go out here and give him a flawed roster with no young players, a bunch of older guys who aren’t going to be able to give you maximum effort on a nightly basis. Combine that with two of your better players hurt, and your third best player never quite fitting in with the team and he never got his footing – I don’t care if you had Frank Vogel or Phil Jackson, it wasn’t going to work this year for anybody trying to coach the Lakers.
“They weren’t set up for success from the jump,” he said, pointing to the Lakers’ decision to push ‘all (their) chips into the middle of the table’ to get Westbrook.