Darkness has fallen on Los Angeles professional basketball. The Los Angeles Lakers, an iconic NBA franchise, packed with stars on the court failed to even make the play-in tournament. The Los Angeles Clippers (um, not really an iconic franchise, but rising) were bounced from the play-in round.
When the season started, the Lakers had the second-shortest odds at sportsbooks to win the NBA title (the Brooklyn Nets were favorites). The Clippers had a lot of respect at seventh on the board.
BetMGM Sportsbook in California set the Lakers over/under for total wins at 52.5, while the Clippers were 45.5.
Sports betting in California is currently illegal, but if you went to Nevada or an area where it’s legal, I hope you bet the under. The Lakers finished 33–49, while the Clippers were 42–40.
What happens next for both franchises? Is this darkness a blip on the radar, or something that lingers? Here’s our plan to get both back where they belong, on top of the NBA.
Let’s start with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Westbrook has to go
It just….it just didn’t work out, and everyone in California knows it. Hailed at the start of the season as part of a new Big Three, Russell Westbrook was supposed to provide the fire for the Lakers alongside Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
Instead, Westbrook was temperamental off the court, and a shell of himself on it. Every time the Lakers needed a big shot, Westbrook seemed to misfire. The pressure began to get to him. He didn’t seem happy. The crowd never warmed to him.
The Lakers’ Big Three played in just 21 games together and went 11-10.
Westbrook has a player option for $47 million next year. Forty-seven million dollars. Of course, he’s going to take it. But the Lakers need to do whatever they can to move Westbrook. It’s the definition of addition by subtraction.
Find a coach, or maybe….
Bill Russell was a player/coach for the Boston Celtics from 1966 to 1969 and won two titles.
So is it really so farfetched to think the Lakers couldn’t just make LeBron a player/coach? I mean, what more does LeBron have to prove on the basketball court?
Don’t most people feel like he calls the shots anyway when it comes to personnel? And there’s no way James isn’t going to approve (or pick) who the Lakers hire anyway.
Unless former Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski wants to immediately get back in the game (remember, he coached LeBron in the Olympics), who is out there who gives the Lakers instant credibility and respect?
James has a brilliant mind for the sport of basketball, watching him become a player/coach would be fascinating. He might be the one man in pro basketball who could do it. It could lengthen his career and add another chapter to his legacy.
The Lakers have no picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. They lost their first-round pick to the New Orleans Pelicans in the Anthony Davis deal.
Davis has been injured a lot, but hey, the Lakers won the 2020 NBA title. Every fan would make that trade.
But it’s time to inject some new life into the purple and gold. The best thing about watching the Los Angeles Lakers down the stretch was the play of Austin Reaves and Malik Monk. The bad news is Monk is liable to leave for more money, and Reaves is probably just a rotational player.
Still, with Davis and James, what the Lakers need are young pups who can run and play defense. Who wouldn’t want to play with those guys?
As for the Clip Joint, they don’t have as many problems as their cross-town rivals.
Here’s what they need to do.
Make Kawhi happy
At this point, NBA fans kind of know what Kawhi Leonard is. He’s mercurial. He’s aloof. But when he is invested, he’s an All–NBA type of player.
Leonard missed all season after suffering a knee injury in the 2021 playoffs (a title that was there for the taking by the Clippers). We can play the “he should have come back in the playoffs” card, but for what? You’re asking a lot for someone to return right into the crucible of the NBA playoffs.
He did the right thing.
For better or for worse, the Clippers are tethered to Leonard. Now is not the time to give up on him. The Clippers need to do what they can to make him comfortable and healthy for next year.
Yes, the Clippers always seem to have bad luck, and it happened again this year. Paul George just played in 31 games with a bad elbow. Just when the Clippers needed him in the Play-In Tournament, he had to miss the game after a positive COVID-19 test.
But George and Leonard make a formidable tandem. Reggie Jackson had a good year for the Clippers, averaging 16.8 points. Tyronn Lue is an excellent coach (what the Lakers would do to have him on their bench…).
When healthy, the Clippers are a threat to win the NBA title. They need to get healthy and see what happens next year. It’s not time to blow anything up.