LOS ANGELES — So the NBA trade deadline has come and gone. And the Lakers decided to not do anything.
Most Lakers fans would tell you that doing nothing was a terrible move. Of course, these are the same people that would tell you that the offseason was a rousing success. After all, this was the squad that surprisingly got to the Western Conference Finals and more continuity could surely get them closer to that ever-so-elusive 18th ring.
This hasn’t been the case for most of the season. The team is 27-25 although they went home with a three-game winning streak, which includes huge wins over Boston and New York. So yes, there’s a case for making a move but in the author’s humble opinion, I don’t think there was any move that could’ve moved the needle, per se. Dejounte Murray from the Hawks was rumored coming up on the deadline but in the end, Atlanta decided not to move him. And of course, D’Angelo Russell was rumored to be the one moving but Russell’s recent play (who the fans are hot and cold on) kind of made it hard for the Lakers to ship him.
So we stay with this team for the rest of the season. The Lakers do have some buyout candidates that could help them. In the meantime, it is Kobe Bryant Day where the Lakers are set to unveil his statue.
And the Lakers are also back home to defend their home court against the reigning champions, the Denver Nuggets.
We know what the champions are all about. It’s all about two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. The man might have the deepest bag in the league. And he’ll beat you in a thousand ways. He nearly averages a triple-double (26.3 points, 12.2 rebounds, 9.0 assists) and it’s just scary what he can do with the ball in his hands.
Jamal Murray seems all the way back now at 21.0 points per. Michael Porter, Jr. has become a solid #3 option (15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds). Aaron Gordon has found his role in Denver. And Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has become the perfect 3-and-D guy for them.
Their bench has built something after Bruce Brown left them. Peyton Watson, Christian Braun, and Julian Strawther have become dependable options. And Reggie Jackson’s career has seemingly been resurrected, even starting for them when the situation calls for it.
If anything, the Nuggets are the main obstacle for the Lakers’ title hopes. At the Lakers’ peak, they seem capable of going against every other team except for Denver. We saw what they did to the Lakers last May (a complete sweep in the Conference Finals). And again on Opening Night. This is why the Lakers fans have called for Russell’s head during the trade deadline. He became increasingly unplayable in that playoff series, averaging 6.3 points and shooting .133 from three. Now he’ll get a chance to rectify that should they face them again.
But the Lakers have been a model for inconsistency this season. Can they even get to the playoffs first? The Lakers are hanging on to the 9th spot and are seemingly in the same spot as last year. They had to make a huge push in the second half (ironically, led by D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Rui Hachimura, who were all acquired midseason) and they’ll have to do it again in order to even qualify for a Play-In spot.
They’ll have to show on Kobe Bryant Day that they are not pushovers, especially against the defending champs. And if they really want to do this in honor of Kobe, they’re going to have to persevere, lock the defending champions down, and make all the clutch shots. That’s what Kobe would’ve done, at least, and that’s what these Lakers will have to do on Thursday night.