The Los Angeles Lakers entered the season with big expectations and a roster full of players old enough to explore presidential runs. Injuries have riddled the geriatric Millennials at an alarming clip, but their problems run far deeper than who's available on any given night. Those waiting for something to snap into place and signs this team is capable of winning an NBA title continue to wait as the season moves past its midway point. At 21-22 and eighth in the Western Conference, even the most optimistic fans could be forgiven for beginning to think this is fait accompli.
A humiliating 37-point loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night may be the lowest point of them all, and it promoted LeBron James to offer a sweeping apology for the mess. With a promise to get better.
Doubting James is a dangerous game. He's more than pulling his weight this year, averaging 28.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game to garner MVP consideration. He's also adapted his style to include more prolific shooting from the outside. It's scary to think where the Lakers would be without his uniquely broad shoulders. Which is at the heart of the problem.
James can make solemn vows to fix things all he wants but the ultimate story of this team will be written by his supporting cast. Anthony Davis needs to be on the court and Russell Westbrook wants to show he actually wants to be there. More helpfully, the front office needs to construct a time machine and construct a different roster.
Things will probably get better than sub-.500 ball in the second half of the year. But it's worth wondering aloud just how much better is possible. And if that version of Los Angeles has the ability to emerge through a deep crop of playoff teams with far better vibes. the Lakers certainly weren't underdogs on paper entering this year but are in practice right now.
Sorry if that's an unpleasant reality.