Although some believed the Los Angeles Lakers would be championship contenders this season, superstar LeBron James says the team is merely a work in progress.
Friday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was the Lakers ninth loss of the season. Earlier in the week, James suffered the worst defeat in his NBA career as the team suffered a 44-point lost to the Philadelphia 76ers.
After the game, James pointed to the team’s recent string of injuries as one of the reasons for the most recent disappointing loss. But, the four-time NBA champion also praised the team’s ability to overcome adversity in the midst of its current set of challenges.
“You could start seeing the [three games in four nights], the back-to-back, the bodies that we don’t have start to wear on us, especially vs. a young team like OKC.”
“I have no idea what we are. How? We don’t have our group yet. I know what some of us individually are, but as far a team, we don’t have our group yet. We haven’t logged enough minutes with our group where we know we got the starting group, the guys coming in, we got a good rhythm. We’re over .500, we’re 11-9 with literally not ever having our same group. That’s pretty impressive.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham also expressed confidence about the team’s ability to compete at a high level once they “get whole”
“At the end of the day, I know what we’re going to be. I know once we do get whole, how complete and balanced our attack will be. We just have to deal with it in the present and just try to, again put your best foot forward as best as possible.”
The Lakers are certainly missing their fair share of players they would normally rely on, but it isn’t clear that this roster would be a clear-cut championship contender if it was at full strength.
Cam Reddish, Jaxson Hayes, Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura and Gabe Vincent did not play in Thursday’s game.
One key area the Lakers will need to improve on, if they want to compete with the likes of the defending champion Denver Nuggets, is three-point shooting. Los Angeles’ 29.7% three-point accuracy ranks at last in the league.
The Lakers managed to make enough corrections and roster moves down the stretch of last season to make a run to the Western Conference Finals. There is still more than 75% of the regular season remaining, giving the Lakers a significant amount of runway to get on track.