3-Time Champion & Hall of Famer Sounds Off on ‘Embarrassing’ Lakers

The 2021-22 Lakers

Getty Dwight Howard sits next to LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook

The Los Angeles Lakers were a walking disaster in 2021-22 and one of the best players in franchise history believes the players should be embarrassed.

James Worthy, who won three championships with the purple and gold, sounded off on the 2021-22 Lakers during an interview with 97.1 The Ticket.

“The Lakers, I think they have refused to build over the years,” Worthy said. “We’ve had some good players: (Brandon) Ingram, (Julius) Randle, (Lonzo) Ball. We have tried to win quickly. In Kobe’s last few years, we brought in (Steve) Nash who was a little bit older, Dwight Howard came in with a back injury. We traded away draft picks to try to win immediately and I think they’re going to have really think about how they need to build.

“You look at Memphis, you look at the way Boston is playing right now, you look at the way Milwaukee has built a team over time. We need to create players that have cohesiveness. We had it a couple years ago and we traded it all away to try to win, to try to match what Brooklyn was doing and what other teams were doing with their Big Three players. I think that’s going to go away. That’s an illusion, having the Big Three. You see what happened in Brooklyn, you see what happened with the Lakers. Even though everyone experienced injuries, you still should be playing better and you should definitely be in the playoffs. So the Lakers — it’s embarrassing and it’s unacceptable.”

The Lakers went 33-49 in 2021-22. They had the oldest roster in the NBA. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart were traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in the summer of 2019 for Anthony Davis. The Lakers won the 2020 title in Davis’ first year with the team, but the All-Star big man has only played in 76-regular season games since capturing his first ring.

Lakers Have Shown Master Class in Devaluing Players & Picks

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report believes the Lakers have a pattern of letting value go without recompense. While Los Angeles did get Davis — one of the top players in NBA history — in return for Ball, Ingram and Hart, the franchise has made several mistakes with other players and draft picks.

Last offseason, the Lakers traded Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell to the Washington Wizards for Russell Westbrook, which turned out to be a poor trade. Westbrook was second in the NBA in turnovers and his effective field goal percentage of 47.6% was sixth-worst in the league in 2021-22.

In the summer of 2018, the Lakers revoked Julius Randle’s qualifying offer to let him walk as an unrestricted free agent. The lefty is now an All-Star for the New York Knicks and the Lakers got nothing in return for him.

The Chicago Bulls are another team benefiting from the Lakers’ mistakes. They signed Alex Caruso in free agency last offseason after the Lakers didn’t make him a fair offer. Chicago made the playoffs in 2021-22, while Los Angeles didn’t even qualify for the play-in tournament despite having LeBron James, Davis and Westbrook.

What’s Next for the Lakers?

The Lakers’ future doesn’t look too bright. James is getting older — he’ll turn 38 in December 2022 — and Davis hasn’t proven that he can stay healthy.

James, who averaged 30.3 points in 2021-22, can sign a two-year extension this summer, but he may choose not to, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic.

“Based on my conversations with people who have a strong sense of such things, it’s clear James is considering playing out this contract rather than signing a two-year extension this summer,” Amick reported. “If flexibility and freedom are the goals here, James (who is owed $44.4 million next season) could go back to the year-by-year approach he perfected in his second Cleveland stop.”

To win another title with James and Davis, the Lakers need to acquire more shooters. They could trade Westbrook to the Indiana Pacers for Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield this offseason, but it’s unknown if the Pacers would be interested in acquiring Westbrook, who will make $47,063,478 next season if he picks up his player option.

Along with figuring out what they want to do with Westbrook and the rest of the roster around James and Davis, the Lakers have to hire a new head coach. Darvin Ham, Terry Stotts and Kenny Atkinson have interviewed for the position thus far.

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