Los Angeles Lakers: Decisions Loom As All-Star Break Nears

The Los Angeles Lakers started well. Then the wheels fell off. They now have two options as to how they round out this season; trade or tank.

As we approach the NBA All-Star break, teams begin to self-evaluate, assess their situation, and make plans on how they want to end the season.

Forty-five games into the season, it’s fair to say the Los Angeles Lakers have so far been rocks and diamonds.

Through the first 20 games, the famously optimistic Lakers fan was talking playoffs. The team was looking like they could beat anyone on their night and the youthful exuberance of the young core would keep that .500 pace right through to April.

But having gone 5-20 since the 10-10 start, the wheels have fallen off this group’s quest for a first playoff berth.

The evaluation of the season so far now looks a lot different at 15-30.

Over the recent rough stretch, which included a two-win month of December, the energy and optimism associated with that youthful exuberance has taken a hit.

As losses mount up and hope of a winning season is lost, young players begin to falter, as Nick Young recently suggested to Serena Winter of LakersNation.com:

“We need to stop being down when things aren’t going right. Teams feed off that. We have to work on that. It’s a bad habit.”

Losses are hard for any professional but veterans often have the task of reminding the youngsters it’s a long season, and they were a long-shot of winning regularly this season anyway.

Mental barriers haven’t been the only hurdle for the struggling Lakers. Physical hits are also taking their toll.

D’Angello Russell has missed games with a knee injury, while Larry Nance Jr. is still sidelined by a balky knee. Julius Randle has had hip pointer issues while Tarik Black has had sprained ankles.

All of that has gone along with the more expected injuries to the older players like Nick Young (calf) and Jose Calderon (hamstring).

Now well below .500, we are looking at a more realistic prospect of 26-29 wins for the season. Despite that, it’s not unreasonable to assess the season so far and label it a success.

The young players are improving, they are buying into their new coach and most of all, they are showing glimpses of whats to come in the future.

Winning was never paramount this season but when you’ve got a self-entitled fan base like that of the Lakers, a reminder is needed — it’s a process.

That tagline isn’t only reserved for Joel Embiid and the Philidelphia 76ers. The Lakers have a process of their own and despite the false sense they were ahead of schedule after the 10-10 start, they aren’t.

The Lakers are right on track to be where most expected — it may not be in the best interest of the franchise, though.

With their 2017 first-round pick top-three protected, the Lakers need a whole heap of losses and even more luck on top to have the ping-pong balls bounce their way.

Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The thought of tanking is starting to creep into the social media-sphere much to the disgust of the Lakers purists. Never has the franchise been known to deliberately tank so obviously as they would have to in order to keep their pick, but it might be for the best.

The plan from here for the Lakers can either be to:

a) Keep playing their current rotation and end the season roughly 28-54. They improve on their franchise-worst 17-65 from last season and start to bring back some respectability to the purple and gold.

b) Increase the minutes of the youngsters — possibly trading Lou Williams in the process — and speed up their NBA internships. They likely sacrifice wins but improve their draft chances as a result.

Neither option lives up to the expectations commonly bestowed on a Lakers team but it’s all they’ve got.

As they take the break over the All-Star period, coach Luke Walton will be crunching the numbers and formulating a plan to round out the season.

Whether it’s option A or B, it’s going to be an improvement and something to celebrate for the patient Lakers fan.

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