Don’t look now, but the Lakers are out of the play-in picture. Once thought to be at least a reprieve to a long season of disappointment, participation in the tournament has now moved to the “Unlikely” end of the spectrum. And it’s not simply because of the continuing absence of top god LeBron James and fellow All-Star Anthony Davis. Their concerns are fundamental, and owing to poor personnel decisions and a string of bad luck that had them parading their 32nd distinct starting lineup against the Mavericks the other day.
How bad are the Lakers? Well, a simple glance at their schedule tells the story. They haven’t strung together two victories since they were last above .500 in early January. Over the last two and a half months, they’ve gone 10 and 24, and with reason; even casual observers won’t be hard-pressed to see their lack of chemistry on offense and glaring inability to put up any semblance of defense. They’re middling at best with James on the floor, and need otherworldly performances from him to provide the moist eyes they cast at a rare triumph with a semblance of reality.
Interestingly, not a few quarters have seen fit to argue that the Lakers would be better off jut giving up on their 2021-22 campaign altogether. In their one-step-back-and-then-two-steps-forward take, they contend that James and Davis staying in the sidelines from here on to recover from injuries is the best thing that can be done under the circumstances. After all, what’s the point in risking further harm when what awaits is a one-and-done stint?
Pride is the point, of course, and, for James, there is the added incentive of getting closer and closer to setting a singular achievement. The more he sits, the longer it will take for him to jump over living legend Kareem Adbul-Jabbar and claim the top spot in career points scored. It’s a milestone that has stood since 1989, and he has a legitimate shot at reaching it. The clock is ticking, however, and especially because he’s an old 37. Which is why he continues to push himself, but not to the point of breaking the bank. He has been walking the tightrope for a while now, and, at some point, Father Time will win. So the question is: Will he make history before being history? The jury is out.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.