The Lakers have lost eight of their last nine games to fall to 11th in the Western Conference, and eight games below .500. The organization appears to be in a state of ugly collapse, helped along by the distracting, doomed courtship of Anthony Davis. Luke Walton is rumored to be on his way out. LeBron James now places his squad on a tier with the dreaded New York Knicks, the clown-show team that just delivered possibly the most glaring humiliation of his illustrious career:
“It bothers me in the fact we didn’t close the game out, and being the competitor that I am, it bothers me that I didn’t make enough plays down the stretch; it bothers me that I didn’t even get a shot up at the hoop,” James said. “Of course that stuff bothers me, but I mean what’s the difference between [the Knicks’] record and our record? Two teams out of the postseason. So there’s no difference. We have a couple more wins than them, but both teams right now are on the outside looking in, so it’s not much of a difference.”
That comparison understates* the difference between the Lakers and the Knicks—the Lakers have won more than twice as many games as the Knicks, and their point differential on the season is more than four times better, and any one of the four young Lakers the team offered up in combination for Davis (Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart) would be one of the best and most exciting players on the Knicks today. But it’s also true that there’s something uniquely ugly and dispiriting about the way this Lakers season has gone down, a cocktail of dysfunction, betrayal, and disappointment that makes the mundane and goofily hopeful shittiness of the Knicks seem downright charming by comparison. Also, whatever else can be said of the Knicks, it is also true that they have not and will not and cannot suffer the humiliation of being punked by Mario Hezonja.
LeBron James will eat a lot of shit for the way this Lakers season has gone down, in no small part because the two signature moments of their post-break collapse involve him looking like an absolute sucker. There’s more to it than that—the Lakers had a genuinely encouraging back half of last season, with cool young players doing cool things under the stewardship of a cool young coach. Then LeBron came along, and the Lakers followed up his acquisition with a series of bizarre personnel moves described as tailored to LeBron’s needs, and then the team spent the middle part of this season trying to dump those cool young guys that formed their pre-LeBron core, in order to provide LeBron with a second superstar. There’s plenty of shit to be eaten for how this season has gone down, and shadow general manager LeBron deserves to eat a hearty portion of it.