Thirty years ago this month Los Angeles was rattled by the Northridge earthquake. It resulted in many of my neighbors’ homes being red-tagged, my home life being disrupted for weeks by the trauma my then-wife suffered through, and serves as a backdrop of nervousness that has acccompanied the two 4.1 temblors that the city has experienced this week, most recently this morning. No significant damage as a result of either of the 2024 incidents, at least so far.
But that was before the Lakers took the court last night. With another national ESPN audience looking in, fresh on the heels of a loss to the undermanned Miami Heat and the second of three consecutive home games this week occurring with the weakest of those opponents, the Memphis Grizzlies, as their opponents, the scrutiny that the Lakers and their personnel were under was already heightened.
Last night’s performance was the equivalent of dousing a fire with oil.
As FAN NATION’s Grizzlies reporter Joey Linn dutifully reported:
Losing their fourth-consecutive game, the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night at home. With the Golden State Warriors defeating the Detroit Pistons, this loss dropped the Lakers below the play-in picture. While it is still too early to be watching the standings, all of these losses count towards the final playoff picture, and the Lakers know they are not in a good spot right now.
Following this loss to the Grizzlies, Lakers star LeBron James dropped a brutally honest statement on the state of his team, saying, “We just suck right now.”
And as THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER’s Khobi Price expounded, they are indeed the victims of their own inabilities to prevent their opponents from scoring rather than their own ability to do so:
The effort was present. So was the improved shotmaking and ball security after Wednesday’s sloppy loss to the Miami Heat.
But the defensive stops were not.
The Grizzlies (12-23) buried the Lakers (17-19) with 3-pointers, shooting 23 for 45 from behind the arc – the most 3-pointers Memphis has made in a game and the most a Laker opponent has converted this season.
“They shot the hell out of the ball,” Coach Darvin Ham said of the Grizzlies, who rank last in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage. “Some guys that came in with lower percentages from the whole team to certain individuals and they knocked them down. It seems to be the pattern of people stepping their game up when they come in our building.”
And Ham’s ability to maintain a sunny outlook is being increasingly challenged with each game’s passing, as LEBRON WIRE’s Robert Marvi offered:
Although there is no indication that head coach Darvin Ham is on the hot seat, one has to figure that with each additional loss, the chances of him getting fired at some point only increase.
After the game, he seemed to downplay the loss. As Dave McMenamin’s X-eet amplified:
“I’m tired of people living and dying with every game we play … This is a marathon”
On one hand, it’s possible Ham said this to defend his players and his organization as a whole.
However, every game carries plenty of importance, even in the NBA, a league that has an 82-game schedule some feel is too long. With the Lakers losing games seemingly on a nightly basis, every game carries even more importance for them than for most other teams, especially considering they had championship aspirations just weeks ago.
Conspiracy theorists and believers in karma strongly believe the fact that the Lakers chose to raise a “championship” banner last month in the wake of their 6-0 run in the In-Season Tournament (the last of those victories doesn’t count in the NBA standings) was tempting fate. They have dropped 10 of their last 13. And suffice to say, Ham’s star player is not exactly sympatico with his coach’s ‘tude. Per Price:
James doesn’t seem to share his coach’s optimism, dismissing the suggestion that the Lakers’ solid play in the tournament semifinals and final was an indication that this team can contend for the NBA title.
“That was just two games, though,” James said. “That was a small sample. Everybody is getting so cracked up about Vegas, keep bringing up Vegas. It was two games. We took care of that business … but that was really just two games.”
Even with James (32 points, seven assists, five rebounds, five steals) and Anthony Davis (31 points, six rebounds, four assists) combining for 63 points, and the Lakers scoring 23 points off Memphis’ 19 turnovers, the Grizzlies’ firepower was too much for the Lakers to keep up with.
Memphis outscored the Lakers 33-19 in the fourth quarter after the teams had played to a 94-all draw through three.
So the rumor mills are swirling. The trade rumors for the likes of the Bulls’ Zach Levine and/or ex-Laker Alex Caruso, a star of the aberrative 2020 team that represents the other most recent banner to he hosted to the rafters of Crypto.com Arena, are reigniting. They need help. The Lakers got scant little firepower from anyone other than James and Davis. While Austin Reaves did deliver a respectable 19 points and a personal record 12 assists, fellow starters Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish’s combined totals didn’t equal Reaves’, and they shot a combined 35 per cent from the field in the process. Moreover, the brittle James and Davis played a combined 80 minutes, an unsustainable level of time spent for a home opponent of the caliber of the Grizz.
But with a showdown with their still-Crypto roommates the Clippers, who scored their 14th victory in their last 16 with a 111-95 whupping of the Pelicans in New Orleans last night looming on Sunday, there is increasing speculation that Ham and/or James might be heading in different directions. Yes, Lebron’s sending out those kind of signals again.
The Clippers currently sit at 22-12, with a home playoff seed and the same number of losses as the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets. In other words, pretty much where even the lesser supportive pundits thought a Laker team with a healthy Davis and James should be at this point.
So much like the shaky ground under them, something’s gotta give with these current Lakers. And as January rolls on, those Northridge memories are gonna intensify.
We’ll see if Ham–or even James–will be around for the recollections.