The Los Angeles Lakers were one of the pre-season favorites heading into the 2021/22 season. However, they have endured a difficult start to the campaign. In the off-season, the Lakers added Russell Westbrook to their roster as they revamped their team following a disappointing 2021 season. ESPN analyst Stephen A Smith believes the Lakers’ problems stem from the group depending on LeBron James too much.
Smith laid into the Lakers and head coach Frank Vogel on ESPN’s ‘First Take’ following a lackluster defeat against the New York Knicks. As far as Stephen A is concerned, the Lakers’ dependence on LeBron James could soon spell the end for Frank Vogel.
“[The Lakers] They’re depending on LeBron too much. This team is 9-10. They’ve lost five of their last six games. Like six of their last eight games. If this continues for another week or so, Frank Vogel going to be in trouble. Let me state that on the record on national tv. I understand LeBron has been out but just the way that they’ve looked. Defense is his signature, that’s where Frank Vogel made his bones in this business. They’re the 28th ranked defense in the National Basketball Association. What the hell is going on with the Lakers?”Stephen A Smith
The Lakers currently sit 25th in offensive rating (105.3) and 20th in defensive rating (108.9), having finished first in defensive rating last season. This drop-in rating is a knock-on effect from losing a number of their core defensive players including, Alex Caruso & Kantavious Caldwell Pope.
LeBron James has missed 11 of the Lakers’ 19 games so far this season. The team is 5-3 in games with James and 4-7 in games without LeBron. Stephen A believes this is down to the team’s other All-Stars, Anthony Davis & Russell Westbrook, not stepping up in James’ absence.
“I mean where the hell are the Lakers. Listen, Anthony Davis is a star. Russell Westbrook is a star. As far as I’m concernced they’re two future hall of famers. We get all that. Where the hell are you for 60 minutes. I mean with LeBron out you gotta know it’s on you to step up. The bottom line is, you’re seeing stuff from the Lakers that is simply inexcusable. The Lakers franchise I know, the Lakers franchise we’ve all known. They are not going to stand pat with two of these three players playing like this. Frank Vogel better figure it out, it’s unacceptable.”Stephen A Smith
We are still early in the season, and Frank Vogel is dealing with an almost entirely new roster. However, the level of performance still has not been good enough, LeBron James should be ready to return to the lineup for the next game, and the Lakers will be hoping it’s the first step of the team finding their form.