Things are less than harmonious over in Hollywood right now to say the least.
The Los Angeles Lakers are currently on a five-game skid, their most recent loss coming at the hands of crosstown rivals the Clippers on Friday night, where a returning Blake Griffin posted 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, leading the Clips to a 121-106 victory at Staples Center.
Andrew Bogut, who was a recent acquisition for the Lakers before the season started, came out a week ago after a disappointing loss to the Trail Blazers to express the locker room’s thoughts to the media:
“Pouting? Possibly. Guys are frustrated,” Bogut said of the Lakers as Brandon Ingram sat out because of injuries to his quads. “There are some injuries right now, different rotations. Guys are frustrated, obviously. You would be lying to say that there are guys that are not frustrated on this team.
“Everyone knows what is going on with the salary-cap situation next season and all that. That is just distractions that we can’t let affect us. That is part of the league, the business decisions that front offices and coaches make. So if that is distracting guys, that is going to be like that your whole career. That is just the nature of this league.”
Apparently, Bogut’s words to the media — and indirectly or not — to the Lakers’ management, forced Los Angeles coach Luke Walton’s hand to act on an escalating situation, and Walton elected to hold a secret team meeting on Thursday before their Friday night matchup against the Clippers where players were free to bring up their frustrations with the state of the team as a whole, as well as how the Lakers were being run as a business, to get down to the bottom of things.
The Lakers had a team meeting yesterday instead of practice. Luke Walton gave players the floor to discuss whatever was on their mind. Lots of talk about frustrations guy were feeling, both on the court and with the business of the organization.
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) December 29, 2017
According to Walton and various Laker players, the meeting was sorely needed, especially at this point in the season.
“There’s some frustration,” Walton said. “But there’s frustration on every team unless you win every game. Whenever you lose games, there’s frustration, people want to play more as everyone in the league should want to play more.”
Walton characterized the Lakers issues as “normal, middle-of-the-season NBA type of stuff.”
Brandon Ingram, who has taken on a much bigger role in LA this season compared to years prior, was reportedly a leader during the meeting, which can only be a good sign.
“Hopefully we think about what we said to each other,” Ingram said. “What we said to the coaches and that the coaches have listened to what we said. Hopefully we can take it into practice, into games and just get better.
“I think it was well-needed at the point in time that we were at,” Ingram said. “I think in these last two games, very winnable games, I don’t think we played up to our potential.”
Many outsiders believe the frustrations within the team stem from the Lakers not-so-well-kept secret plan to pursue two All-Star calibre free agents this coming offseason. Names such as LeBron James, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins have all been thrown around, leaving some of the Lakers’ younger talent feeling unwanted and alienated by the front office.
“Plans to chase two maximum-level free agents next summer have made certain players uneasy about their futures with the team; Julius Randle has watched his minutes plummet; and the Lakers (11-22) are in the midst of a four-game losing streak and have lost seven of their last eight games.
“The situation with Randle is perhaps the most intriguing. The fourth-year forward played just 11 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to Memphis. He was held to just eight minutes one week earlier in a victory against the league-leading Houston Rockets.”
Despite these rumors, Walton had high praise for the way Randle has been handling coming off the bench this season, even with his inconsistent minutes.
“Julius has shown us how great he can be,” Walton said. “And I believe in Julius and I continue to challenge him and some nights when he doesn’t play big minutes, it’s because other guys are rolling.
“And some nights it’s because I don’t believe he is playing up to the standard that he set for himself. I want him to feel and realize the difference in those nights as part of his growth as a player.”
However, star rookie Kyle Kuzma, who is surprisingly mature for the amount of time he’s spent in the league thus far, summed it up best.
“At the end of the day we’re going to have five guys on the floor and somebody’s always going to be frustrated by something,” Kuzma said, “whether that’s playing time, not getting enough shots, coaches being on them too hard or anything. That’s just the game of basketball.”