By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, AFRO Sports Desk

A 2-4 start hasn’t left the Los Angeles Lakers resorting to the panic button, but a messy team fight, suspensions and LeBron James coming up short in overtime spelled out a rough first week for a team with high expectations. LeBron doesn’t solve everything and the Lakers and even James himself are finding this out as the season revs up. For James, eight straight Finals appearances have been just as big as an accomplishment in his career as any other achievement. Going for nine this year was going to be tough anyway operating out of the same conference as the Golden State Warriors. But now, is it time to start considering the Lakers for lottery or luxury? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO SportsDesk debates.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after his team did not score on a play late in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Riley: Coming into the season the table was already set for a big season from the Lakers. I always thought a championship would be a stretch considering the competition out west, but it’s a very real thing that the Lakers could find themselves out of the playoffs come next April. Yes, we’re a long ways away. but just from early looks, it appears Denver, New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio and Golden State are shoo-ins for postseason play. That’s five spots I’m counting and three spots up for grabs amongst the remaining 10 teams. Last year’s playoff squads Oklahoma City, Houston and Minnesota are a combined 3-12 and you expect them to pick up steam. All three teams are loaded beyond belief and then there’s the Lakers and their raggedy bunch that just got assembled in the summer. Maybe we hyped the James move too much.

Green: If you’re suggesting that the Lakers won’t even make the playoffs then I’m not co-signing. I can’t remember the last time I watched the NBA playoffs with no LeBron and I’m not expecting that this year. Title talk is far-fetched but they’ll make the playoffs at least. A slow start shouldn’t write L.A. off just like you’re not writing off Houston and OKC so what’s the difference with arguably the greatest player of the last 15 to 20 years? I absolutely cannot bank money on the Lakers getting out of the West but pencilling them in for a playoff berth? Oh that’s easy.

Riley: The difference with OKC and Houston is that we’ve seen them make the playoffs and have season-long success. I haven’t seen anything with the Lakers except for futility and lottery picks ever since Kobe retired. Give LeBron credit, this team will be better than what it was last year, but the West is just so loaded with so many quality teams that James has his work cut out for him. I think James knew this was going to be a multi-year project when he signed up and honestly: missing the playoffs and grabbing an early round pick wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for the Lakers. They’re going to sell out games nightly, so revenue isn’t an issue. They’ll be competitive nightly. so futility and incompetence won’t be a problem. And heading into next season with more cap space, high draft picks and fan support, could change the landscape of the league next year; if the Lakers can continue to build around James. The Lakers’ biggest offseason additions outside of James were Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee, that should tell you everything you need to know about the Lakers’ playoff chances this year.

Green: Considering that McGee and Rondo were both on playoff rosters last year should tip you off to their team credibility. The Lakers are trying to get back into the postseason this year and they brought in guys over the summer who have experience with that level of competition. Mix in the young guys that they have like Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball and you see a good combination. It just sounds silly to suggest that James won’t be in the playoffs. He’s shown us nothing to suggest that we should be counting him out and I won’t start today. The Lakers will be good this year. Perhaps not world-beaters but they’ll be formidable as they head into the playoffs next April.

 

Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk