Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images. Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.
The Los Angeles Lakers won championship number 17 in 2020 during the pandemic alternative NBA Finals bubble. Lebron James would win championship number four and his fourth NBA Finals MVP.
Now, the 2022 NBA Playoffs began on Saturday April 16, but the Lakers weren’t part of the 16 team field. They were eliminated from playoff contention on April 6, before the regular season ended.
Reports of Lakers head coach Frank Vogel being fired at the final game of the season surfaced, before being confirmed officially the next day.
This Laker team may go down in NBA history as one of the most disappointing teams.
“Listen at the end of the day a team is a team because of its coach. I don’t care about all that, ‘Oh LeBron is the [general manager], Oh LeBron is the coach’ because we all know at the end of the day, all he could truly do is put in his opinion and hope his convincing would help,” said Brandon Cain, 18, of Jersey City.
“LeBron doesn’t own the Lakers.”
The Lakers began the season hyping up the many new veteran additions like Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo and Trevor Ariza to compliment stars James and Anthony Davis.
The 2021 Los Angeles Lakers would enter this season as the oldest team in NBA history.
Before the signing of James in the summer of 2018, the Lakers roster had plenty of young players with potential following the retirement of the late Kobe Bryant in 2016.
Most of the young talent would be traded to improve their roster, while many of the players would have success on other teams. Lonzo Ball, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Alex Caruso, Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma were all once Lakers before finding success on other teams.
Ball, Ingram, and Hart were traded for Anthony Davis in 2019, who was a key centerpiece for the Lakers 2020 championship.
After the Lakers were eliminated from the 2021 NBA Playoffs by the Phoenix Suns in the first round, trading for Russell Westbrook to form a big three with stars James and Davis was one of the biggest storylines of the off-season.
Many analysts were predicting success for these Lakers, but there were some that questioned the potential chemistry issues that may arise with three ball dominant players.
Westbrook was the 2017 NBA MVP, averaging a triple double for an entire season, the first player to accomplish this feat since Oscar Robertson in the 1962 season. Westbrook would go on to average a triple double for four of the next five seasons.
“Being that the team was hyped, I’m not going to lie I was excited Westbrook coming in at point guard [and] Carmelo coming in as a role. But in the back of my head I knew something was going to end up going bad,” Cain added. “…it’s hard for a great like LeBron to take a losing season like this even though he’s accomplished [so much] this year alone.”
James individually had a spectacular season at 37 years old in his 19th in the NBA. He would become the second all-time in scoring, trailing only Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
He was also the NBA’s leading vote leader for the NBA’s All-Star game, where Team LeBron was victorious against Team KD.
James averaged 30.3 points per game this season, becoming the oldest player in NBA history to do so. He recorded a pair of 50 point games against the Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards, within the same week.
Other than these accolades, it was a very disappointing season for LeBron and the Lakers.
“Most of my responses are heavily negative towards Westbrook but it’s not all his fault,” Cain added.
“AD’s past injuries are also catching up with him. For some reason the Lakers organization thought it was a great idea to surround LeBron with veteran players, [but that] didn’t work.”