The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t repeating as NBA champs.
This is far from a hot take. It’s simply a reality check.
Even before LeBron James’ ankle injury, it was going to be a tall task.
Ask all the Kansas City Chiefs fans who thought they were going to win the next five Super Bowls with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback how easy it is to go back-to-back.
The knee-jerk reaction is always to pick the team that previously won. We get it. It is logical — a safe bet.
But the fact remains that it’s hard to repeat as champions in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors were the last to do it, but it took assembling a Super Team to get it done.
If you remember, the Warriors won the title in 2015 and were up three-games-to-one the next season in the NBA Finals and wound up choking to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And for all the winning the San Antonio Spurs did — winning five championships in their run — none came back-to-back.
Now, you are asking the Lakers to bounce back from major injuries to their star players — Anthony Davis and James — and waltz to another title.
At best, it’s a fairy tale.
The problem is that the Lakers need too many things to go right in order for them to have another shot at a title. You need James and Davis to come back and be healthy. If either one isn’t there, the Lakers have no shot. You need peanut butter and jelly to make this sandwich.
They were handling Davis with kid gloves, trying to avoid a worse situation. The big man re-aggravated an Achilles injury during a game in February. There still is no timetable for his return. Reportedly, the Lakers won’t rush Davis back even with the loss of James.
As for James, his return is a question mark, too. It could be a month. It could be two months. And although James has had a history of bouncing back sooner rather than later with previous injuries, he’s 36 now and in year 18 in the league. There’s just no way of knowing how this will play out.
For now, no one knows when James will be back. “Basically, we’re just saying indefinitely,” Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel told the media.
And even before the Lakers turned into a M*A*S*H Unit, this season had hardly gone as planned.
Before the season, most thought the team had re-tooled in the offseason and had an even better roster than the team that won the championship in the Orlando bubble last season.
But it was clear this team has missed a few key players in that championship run, namely Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo.
Now, that new bunch has to go it alone for a while — starless, no less.
And it will be hard.
Ten of the Lakers’ next 15 games are against playoff teams. The Lakers could crap out and go 3-12. The Lakers could easily find themselves in the sixth or seventh seed once the playoffs start.
And while having home court isn’t nearly as important in the COVID Era, it’s still better to be in your own bed more often than hitting the road.
On Sunday, with no Davis or James, the Lakers looked like the Washington Generals on a good day. The Lakers’ starters were Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews, Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma. They lost 111-94 at Phoenix.
For sure, more of this is coming.
Worse, the West is tougher. There are more good teams. Last season, the Lakers ran the West and had the No. 1 seed.
This season, Utah and Phoenix are the top dogs. Think about it. The Suns didn’t even make the playoffs last season. Currently, they are the No. 2 seed.
The elephant in the room currently plays in Brooklyn. And there’s no denying the fire power the Nets have. They’ve won 15 of their last 17 with Kevin Durant missing 14 of those games. So scary.
Even, if the Lakers somehow put the band back together and made it through the West, it’s hard to imagine they could beat the three-headed monster of Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
Meanwhile in Lakersland, it’s mayday. LeBron could return in May. Even so, it seems impossible that a second straight championship season can be saved.