Thanks to injuries, trade rumors and just flat-out bad roster construction, the 2018-19 Lakers are jumping train on their derailed first season with LeBron James.
This is to the surprise of most of the league and its fans, who pegged the Lakers as a lock for the playoffs. Vegas set the Lakers’ win total before the season started at 48.5 wins, and a lot of people were clamoring to bet that over. Now in the second week of March, the Lakers find themselves at 30-36 and are the No. 11 team in the Western Conference.
Lonzo Ball, who has been out since mid-January with an ankle injury, has been shut down for the rest of the season. Brandon Ingram has sustained a shoulder injury that is going to keep him out the rest of the season as well.
With a depleted roster and the playoffs a far cry away, the Lakers and James agreed that he should play on a minutes restriction of 28 to 32 minutes per game for the rest of the season. They also agreed that LeBron should sit the second game of back-to-backs.
Though throwing in the towel will make this season seem like a failure to fans, it is ultimately in the Lakers’ best interest and sets them up better this offseason. Ball and Ingram are two key components to a potential Anthony Davis trade, so being careful with their injuries and keeping them wrapped in bubble wrap will ensure that they don’t sustain a more serious injury, making them damaged goods.
More importantly, keeping those two out and LeBron on the court less will cause the Lakers to lose more games. The more the Lakers lose, the better odds they will have at a higher draft pick in the lottery. The better of a draft pick they have, the better of an asset they have to offer New Orleans to sweeten up a potential Davis deal.
Making a trade for Davis seems like the Lakers’ destiny at this point. They put all of their eggs into that basket at the trade deadline when they offered the house for him, which is ultimately what doomed this season for LA. Now, the players in the trade rumors such as Ball, Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart are unsure of their future with this franchise, which surely sows discontent among the roster.
Combine a bunch of young guys that think they’re disposable with a bunch of veterans on one-year deals that know they’re disposable and a LeBron James that doesn’t seem focused on basketball (unless you consider acting in “Space Jam 2” as basketball), and you have yourself a very unmotivated team. That’s how they got to the point they’re at now, waving the white flag not even halfway through March.
Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.