Frank Vogel's experiment with benching Russell Westbrook in the fourth quarter did not work for a second time as the Los Angeles Lakers lost in brutal fashion at home to the Milwaukee Bucks last night. The purple and gold, down no less than 30 points at times during the contest, were unable to overcome the deficit in the final frame even without Westbrook. The point guard may be the biggest of the Lakers' problems, but he is far from the only one.
None of it is new, either. The issues Los Angeles faces right now were obvious when the roster was constructed over the offseason and the actual playing of the games has only exacerbated those issues. LeBron James has taken an attitude of confidence that he and his veteran teammates would figure everything out by playoff time, but he strayed from that beaten path after last night's blowout and spoke bluntly.
LeBron does not think the Lakers can reach the level the Bucks are operating right now, which is as good as saying these Lakers are not going to be a championship team. Chris Broussard interpreted this moment of brutal honesty as a public push for the Lakers to trade Westbrook, possibly for John Wall.
Skip Bayless floated the Wall-Westbrook trade yesterday and it seems more enticing with each passing game. Regardless of what Wall can or cannot bring to the table as a player at this point, there is no universe in which it will lead to a worse on-court product than what Westbrook is causing right now. Because this is, effectively, rock-bottom for a team led by LeBron and Anthony Davis. A sub-.500 record, a team that gets blown out when they face the cream of the crop, a team that struggles to beat average teams.
LeBron has probably moved past the point in his career where he feels the need to send messages to the front office through the media, though. He can absolutely walk into Rob Pelinka's office this morning and ask for moves to be made and have his wish granted. That's probably how this iteration of the Lakers came to be in the first place. Such are the luxuries granted to a player of LeBron's caliber and resume. Such are the consequences that come along with those luxuries.
The Lakers are not a good basketball team. This much is clear after half a season of play. Whether or not they can change that is much murkier.