Hi, this is Dan Woike, Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, here with your Lakers newsletter.
It’s a road-trip version this week, when I had to get on a plane, stay in a hotel and watch the same version of a Lakers game that we’ve seen 25 other times this season.
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It’s very late Thursday night in my Memphis hotel as I prepare to get a few hours of sleep before an early-morning flight Friday to Oklahoma City, and I can’t shake the feelings that these postgame media sessions are starting to all seem the same, starting with coach Frank Vogel after a loss to the Grizzlies.
“Frank, are you surprised that this veteran team is still blowing leads by dropping its guard?”
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” Vogel said. “I’ve seen it happen with our group this year, you know what I mean? We have to keep our foot on the gas and continue to play. You hope that it’s not like that, that that’s not the case, but we have seen it with this group and we’ve just got to find a way to prevent that from happening.”
OK, that’s honest enough. But why does it keep happening?
“That’s our biggest problem right now — consistency,” forward Anthony Davis said. “We come out [for] certain games and don’t play how we’re supposed to play, and games like Boston we come out and play great. So we‘ve got to be a more consistent team if we want to truly compete for a championship. And it’s a mind-set thing. We usually understand that we’re going to get everyone’s best shot — well, we don’t understand, but we have to understand that we’re going to get everyone’s best shot. We can’t control misses or makes. But what we can control is our effort defensively.”
“We started the game, we got every loose ball. Just quicker to the ball,” forward LeBron James said. “And we built I believe a 29-22 lead and we had a chance to close the quarter up seven. They took a three at the end of the quarter, and missed it. And we had a chance to rebound and either go up nine or go [up] seven. We did not get the offensive rebound. We missed the offensive rebound. Did not get the loose ball. And Tyus Jones, he missed the first one, and then he got a wide-open look on the second one and nailed it. So from that point on, we were not good with the 50-50 balls.”
But how can this still be happening?
“With nights like this, we know what we’re supposed to do. We know when we’re supposed to take and win games regardless of who is playing. But this is the NBA and these guys are professionals just as well as us,” guard Russell Westbrook said. “We’ve got to do a better job of taking on the challenge, because when everyone is playing the Los Angeles Lakers, we’re going to get their best shot. We know that from the start of the year. We understand that.
“But we’ve got to be able to own our s—, simple as that.”
It is actually simple. The Lakers have reached the point where they’re so inconsistent that we should probably expect these games to look like the ones that preceded them — some good, some bad.
The Lakers actually are consistent — a safe bet to leave us asking the same questions and getting the same answers every other night.
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The next wave
There’s concern among NBA executives about the problems COVID-19 continues to cause, with teams placing large handfuls of players into the league’s health and safety protocols. On Thursday, Indiana coach Rick Carlisle and Toronto executive Masai Ujuri disclosed that they’ve tested positive.
Ujuri, like some of the players in the protocols, is vaccinated and received a booster shot.
“Yeah, we’re just continuing to encourage the booster, encourage to exercise everything that goes into prevention, the washing hands, wearing masks, all those types of things,” Vogel said pregame. “How concerned am I? Just kind of wait-and-see. You hope for the best. Hopefully it doesn’t come to our group. Ask our guys to be as responsible as possible.”
Song of the week
“Race for the Prize” by the Flaming Lips
Apologies to Color Me Badd, but Oklahoma City’s premiere rock band is the Flaming Lips. The Lakers are more than a quarter of the way on their race, and the prize feels further away than ever.