The Los Angeles Lakers have had a rough patch since winning the In-Season Tournament on December 9th. Since winning the tournament against the Indiana Pacers, the Lakers are 3-8. The Lakers were 14-9 and now stand at 17-17. A lot of people have speculated that they’re going through a “championship” hangover after putting maximum effort into the tournament where they went undefeated (7-0). Things have gotten so rocky that head coach Darvin Ham was forced to make a starting line-up change. Ham sent point guard D’Angelo Russell to the bench in favor of Jarred Vanderbilt. Darvin Ham cited going “all defense” as the reason for the line-up change.
Stars And The Supporting Cast
Anthony Davis has been on a tear since the In-Season Tournament. In the last eight games, Davis is averaging 31.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.0 blocks per game. He’s easily been the Lakers’ best player in the month of December. On the other hand, LeBron James is averaging 25.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 9.1 assists per game in his last eight games. Both guys have played well, and yet it hasn’t led to many wins. The problem is that the supporting cast outside of Austin Reaves, who is averaging 17.5 points since the IST tournament, has not played up to their standards.
Russell, in the month of December, is averaging 10.8 points and 5.8 assists per game on 41.4% and 31.6% from three. After a solid start to the season, Russell’s numbers have dipped dramatically, and he hasn’t had a 20-point game since November 29th, where he had 35 points against Detroit. The team’s defense has dropped since the tournament, and coach Darvin Ham wanted to make a change.
The Lakers inserted Jarred Vanderbilt into the starting line-up and replaced D’Angelo Russell. Vanderbilt is a high-motor athlete who is known for his great rebounding and defensive ability. He is starting alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Cam Reddish, and Taurean Prince. Darvin Ham hopes that this new line-up gives the team a spark they desperately need.
“I think the pros are the size, the athleticism, the ability to switch across the board. I think the cons are just different actions. Not having a traditional point guard can be challenging at times,” Ham said last week.
The trade rumors have been loud in recent weeks for the Lakers regarding certain players, most notably D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura. The Athletic’s Shams Charania has reported that the Lakers are expected to have a level of interest in Bulls guard Zach LaVine before the trade deadline. He also reported that a name to keep an eye on is Hawks guard Dejounte Murray. Charania says both Bulls and Hawks will covet Austin Reaves in a potential trade, but the Lakers will be extremely reluctant to include Reaves. You can’t help but wonder if trade rumors are in certain players’ minds, but that’s the business of the NBA, especially when a team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis has been struggling.
Undoubtedly, the Lakers will look to be aggressive at the trade deadline to improve this roster. They currently sit 8th in the Western Conference. The Lakers want to maximize their championship window with 39-year-old LeBron James, who is still playing at an all-NBA level. The Lakers are 2-1 with the new line-up, but I think most people realize they are not winning a championship with this line-up, given the offensive limitations.
Changes will have to be made, even if it’s around the edges. Certain players have struggled with not knowing their roles because of their inconsistent minutes game by game. We will see how things play out for the Lakers until the trade deadline.
Aaron Parker is a contributor for Back Sports Page as a basketball writer. He writes content on the Lakers as well as the Clippers. Other than his passion for basketball, Aaron is also a huge NFL and boxing fan. You can follow Aaron on Twitter @AirParker24
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