WHAT THEY TRIED IN 2018-19
To win an NBA championship behind a preening, near-prime LeBron James and his palm-selected cast of journeyman.
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2018-19
37-45, tenth in the Western Conference
LeBron turned 34 on Christmas Eve, and it all turned to shit.
An impressive victory over Golden State the next afternoon left the Lakers at 24-14 (No. 4 in the West), yet James sat 17 of the next 18 games with the first major injury (a groin pull) of his career. The Lakers were still three games over .500 a month later when Lonzo Ball went down with a severe left ankle sprain — cursing the team’s defense.
Coach Luke Walton appeared hideously overmatched, former basketball personnel executive Magic Johnson was confirmed as a bit of a prat upon quitting the Lakers on the final day of the regular season.
OFFSEASON INS AND OUTS
Here: Anthony Davis (trade with New Orleans), Avery Bradley (free agent, two years and $9.8 million with a player option for 2020-21), Quinn Cook (FA, two years, $6 million), Danny Green (FA, two years, $30 million), DeMarcus Cousins (FA, one-year and $3.5 million), JaVale McGee (FA, two years, $8.2 million, second year is a player option), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (FA, two years, $16.6 million), Jared Dudley (FA, one year at $2.6 million), Alex Caruso (FA, two years, $5.5 million), Troy Daniels (FA, one year at $2 million), Rajon Rondo (FA, two years at $5.2 million), Kostas Antetokounmpo (claimed off waiver wire), Dwight Howard (free agent).
Gone: Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones, Moritz Wagner (three-team deal with New Orleans and Washington), Mike Muscala (free agent, Oklahoma City), Tyson Chandler (FA, Houston), Reggie Bullock (FA, New York).
Luke Walton was fired as coach at season’s end, replaced with a staff including Frank Vogel as head coach alongside Jason Kidd as lead assistant and top “source close to the situation.”
Former Raptors assistant Phil Handy was also added to the staff, alongside longtime NBA head coach Lionel Hollins. Forever Laker Mike Penberthy and holdover assistant Miles Simon remain.
PLAN FOR 2018-19
Lunge for a championship behind the returning James and his newest, brutish screen-and-roll partner: Anthony Davis.
On some nights, the Lakers will boast the top two players in the NBA in the starting lineup. It doesn’t matter that the coupon’s expired.
FREAK FOR 2018-19
James and Davis turn in MVP-styled seasons yet lacking depth fails Los Angeles again. Vogel looks ill-suited for his Hollywood turn, Kidd can’t keep out of the papers, the leaks rage as the rudderless ship plops a martyr onto the mast (where the lookout used to be).
The Lakers couldn’t hold onto the ball or get to the line last year, some of that stuff ain’t gonna change: Los Angeles will act dominant in regular season spots but the club will have to bank on the postseason to prove how awesome it really is.
COME ON LOOK AT
This is on your team, now.
Laker fans should see if they can steal Joel Meyers, too.
C: JaVale McGee — turns out “JaVale McGee” was a pretty good-enough NBA center for a decade (and counting). McGee’s holes are obvious, but the blocks and boards and finishes are there.
PF: Anthony Davis — mini-Kareem (26 points, a dozen boards, four assists and three blocks in his last Who Gives a Shit-year with NOLA) that cannot help but crush once the rolling goes right.
SF: LeBron James — began prepping for his show-offy, MVP season of 2019-20 since 2018-19 was still careening toward oblivion: LBJ will find the return to No. 1 a little tougher at age 34/35. Basketball doesn’t let you half-ass it without your whole ass showing at some point.
SG: Danny Green — worked with LeBron in his rookie year. Nailed 45.5 percent of his three-pointers last season yet not good at the basketball-things you can only do with one hand.
PG: Rajon Rondo — a starfucker, to be sure, but Rajon keeps himself humble by turning the ball over a ton. Has more career miscues than ex-Laker Chris Paul, who has over 7000 more NBA minutes of being Chris Paul under his belt.
THERE WILL BE A BENCH
PF: Jared Dudley — notes-you-can’t-hear-explainer pulled in 155 rebounds in 1220 minutes last year, shot 35 percent from deep. Perfect for this team, I cannot wait for the book
G: Avery Bradley — worked up the best basketball of his NBA life in 14 games with Memphis last season, combo guard will be crucial to Frank Vogel’s machinations in 2020.
F: Kostas Antetokounmpo — averaged 10 points and six boards during 25 minutes a night in the minors last year, blocked 60 shots in 40 games but isn’t hitting threes yet. Lakers hope Kostas and his brother Giannis can burnish this skill as teammates.
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — turned the ball over 475 times since entering the NBA in 2013, Russell Westbrook has 1956 turnovers since 2013 (in 43 fewer games). Caldwell-Pope is way better at “turnovers” than Russell Westbrook.
G: Quinn Cook — had his chances with the Warriors last season and shot well, 40 percent on threes and 51 percent on twos, the 26-year old never gets to the line and isn’t a passer.
F/C: Devontae Cacok — immovable object led the nation in rebounding during his junior year at UNC-Wilmington, nearly won the title during his senior campaign. This 6-7 Touch Factory made 80.8 percent of his shots as a sophomore, averaged 12.3 a game in his college career.
C: DeMarcus Cousins — Nah.
PG: Alex Caruso — ran hot (48 percent from deep) last season but the 25-year old has yet to crack 1100 career minutes. The Lakers would do well to squeak him into primetime minutes this season.
SG: Troy Daniels — 40 percent from deep on his career. Six NBA seasons, 168 career assists. Fabricio Oberto managed 300 assists in six NBA seasons.
C: Dwight Howard — some people are just born Lakers.
G: Talen Horton-Tucker — strong, heady athlete who won’t turn 19 until Thanksgiving (American). Not your quickest scorer and shot 30 percent from long range during his one year at Iowa State, is probably funny and plays good defense.
PF: Kyle Kuzma — imagine Cedric Ceballos but boring.
52-30, fifth in the West.
LET’S WATCH THIS
Doc Rivers misses the game-winner for the Clippers, who had James Edwards out there on defense for the final possession.
James Edwards in, for defense! Larry Brown was one hell of an iconoclast.
Threatt’s shot put the Lakers in the playoffs, one spot behind the No. 7 L.A. Clippers:
“I think this game proved the L.A. Lakers are still the best team in L.A.”
Following the season, coach Mike Dunleavy quit the Lakers to take a job in Milwaukee.
PREVIOUSLY: Toronto, Indiana, Washington, Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Orlando, Boston, New York, Brooklyn, San Antonio, Miami, Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas, Sacramento, Utah, Memphis.
NEXT: Oklahoma City.
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