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NBA

Lakers legend James Worthy criticizes the team’s short sighted approach to building

The Lakers have their share of challenges at present, but that certainly didn’t stop a former great from giving his two cents about their plight.

Paul Rudder
Update:
Lakers legend James Worthy criticizes his former team's approach to building, saying they focused too much on winning quickly.
Chris MarionNBAE via Getty Images

From a disastrous season, to a problematic point guard and then a vacant head coaching post, the Lakers can now add criticism from a past player and league legend to the list of headaches.

A Look at the disaster that was the Lakers’ season

To call the Los Angeles Lakers’ season a disappointment would be an understatement. Not only did they miss the playoffs, but their record of 33-49 was so poor that they couldn’t even qualify for the NBA’s Play-In Tournament. While it’s true that injuries took a toll on the team, with the likes of LeBron James playing just 56 games and fellow star Anthony Davis limited to even less with 40 after a severe knee injury, there were still many questions asked. That of course is before we get to the failed Russell Westbrook experiment which in reality is beginning to look like it may have to continue. Why? That’s because for the moment the Lakers are struggling to find a team willing to absorb his $47 million contract.

What adds insult to injury here is the fact that this is the second year running where the Lakers have seen the post season end in tatters. One will recall that the 2020-21 postseason ended in just the first round when they were unceremoniously sent packing by the Phoenix Suns, the only consolation being that the Suns went all the way to the finals. Again it could be argued that injuries took a toll, but for a team that has such obvious fire power the question remains, ‘Why is it that the Lakers have gone from winning a championship in 2020 to struggling to even contend just two years later?’ Enter Lakers legend James Worthy who believes he may have the answer.

NBA legend James Worthy weighs in on Lakers situation

As a former Lakers player himself and one of iconic status to boot, perhaps there is no better person to give the low down on just what’s going wrong in LA. Indeed, that’s exactly what James Worthy did recently when he spoke on the franchise’s current situation. “The Lakers, I think they have refused to build over the years,” Worthy said. “We’ve had some good players: [Brandon] Ingram, [Julius] Randle, [Lonzo] Ball. We have tried to win quickly. In Kobe [Bryant]’s last few years, we brought in [Steve] Nash who was a little bit older, Dwight Howard came in with a back injury. We traded away draft picks to try to win immediately and I think they’re going to have really think about how they need to build.

A heavy thing to say, but Worthy didn’t stop there either; the former NBA great went on to cite examples of other teams in the league and the manner in which they approached building a team. “You look at Memphis, you look at the way Boston is playing right now, you look at the way Milwaukee has built a team over time. We need to create players that have cohesiveness. We had it a couple years ago and we traded it all away to try to win, to try to match what Brooklyn was doing and what other teams were doing with their Big Three players. I think that’s going to go away. That’s an illusion, having the Big Three. You see what happened in Brooklyn, you see what happened with the Lakers. Even though everyone experienced injuries, you still should be playing better and you should definitely be in the playoffs. So the Lakers - it’s embarrassing and it’s unacceptable.”

Does James Worthy have a point?

If there is one eternal challenge in any team sport, it’s always the question of whether winning in the now, trumps winning for an extended period of time, but in the future. That’s to say if you had to choose between say winning a title here and now or going through a few years of rebuilding i.e. a title drought, but then entering into a period of prolonged success what would you choose? It’s on this point that perhaps Worthy’s critique is somewhat short sighted. Granted he is correct in his analysis of Boston, Milwaukee and Memphis who all built around a homegrown base and then complemented that by selecting incredible draft picks like Ja Morant or Jayson Tatum, but the reality still remains the Lakers got a title out of their more short term approach with LeBron James at the helm.

Worthy of course did make allowance for the impact that injuries had on the roster, but again his conclusion still seems to dismiss just how severe it was to lose major talent like Anthony Davis for extended periods of time along with James’ on and off struggles to remain healthy. In conclusion while the number of Draft picks they gave up and trades they made to secure James was certainly questionable - mind you they did win a title two seasons ago - it would also be fair to say that were it not for injuries, things could have actually been quite different this year. At any rate if there is one thing that is assured for next season, it’s that things are about to get even more difficult for a franchise that is clearly in transition when considering the quantity of talent that’s on show in the Western Conference at here and now.

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