Written By, Dex Alvaro
In line with Thanksgiving week, the Lakers and the rest of Americans, for that matter, will feast on turkey alongside stuffings and sides or an alternative vegan menu. Whatever your choice, you’ll do your best to make sure your tummy is happy with yummy stuff. The thing you can’t choose, however, is the family you’re spending Thanksgiving with. Just stating a fact, I didn’t mean to pour salt on a wound, only if you have family issues, though. If you’re cool with your family, then you’re not bothered by the fact that family is finite. There is no this or that with family after all.
Speaking of family unity, let’s talk about the state of the Lakers. It’s still early Laker Nation, no time to panic. However, the media keeps pressing the panic button on our hoop tribe. Not to defend the media’s trigger-happy panic fingers, we all know that it’s either championship or bust for the Lakers. It’s never a question of either making the playoffs or not because an NBA season without a chip is a waste of salsa.
Speaking of salsa, it’s your choice to decipher whatever that metaphor represents (sauce or dance). Remember when the Laker great (Black Mamba) was on Jimmy Kimmel. Kobe showed his displeasure when a few Lakers players celebrated after winning a meaningless game (albeit breaking an eight-game losing streak). Laker Nation most definitely understands what I’m saying. They bleed purple and gold for a reason and for those who need a hint, the colors purple and gold represent royalty, nobility, and power. A season without a ring is like mimicking Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” dance routine in front of Jay-Z. Okay, allow me to explain this complex metaphor. Any self-respecting Laker fan wouldn’t dare dance to any song unless it’s the Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”
Speaking of royalty, let’s talk about King James 2021 stats. He is averaging 24.8 (PPG), 5.5 (RPG), and 7 (APG). Those are MVP numbers. It’s hard not to state the fact that Bron deserves to be in the running for MVP. Of course, the MVP narrative nowadays shifts to the Greek Freak, NorCal’s golden child, and Brooklyn’s slim reaper. Let’s skip this argument right now.
I think it’s time to discuss the elephant in the room. Actually, the animal kingdom metaphor appropriate for this argument is a sheep. A flock of sheep thrives because of a great shepherd. So, the purple and gold flock needs leadership guidance right now. It will not serve the Lakers well if they hum along to the media’s blame game song: Who’s the black sheep? It doesn’t matter how enticing the banging of the media drums is-listening to that negativity is fatal. The only Black Sheep worth discussing is the theme of this story. The choice is yours.
Allow me to inspire you with this little ditty:
Engine, engine number 6
On the LA Metro rail
If “The L-Train” goes off the track
Pick it up! Pick it up! Pick it up!
My point is: If you think The L-Train is struggling to drive the Lakers from point “A” to point “W,” then someone needs to pick up the slack. The finger-pointing should stop. Winners don’t do that. Every jersey-wearing player must fully embrace the winning culture cultivated by the Buss family. A hoop family that plays well with each other stays together. Team chemistry is vital when it comes to basketball. A solid unit does not allow external factors (negative narratives) to cause divisiveness, leading to implosion. And since basketball is a team game, we must discuss the hoopers who are capable of driving the Lakers to point “W.”
Let’s discuss the 2021 NBA stats of the following heroes of this story:
- Anthony “AD” Davis – 23.8 (PPG), 10.8 (RPG), 2.9 (APG), 16.3 (PIE)
- Russell “Brodie” Westbrook – 19.4 (PPG), 8.4 (RPG), 8.8 (APG), 12.5 (PIE)
- Carmelo “Melo” Anthony – 15.2 (PPG), 4.1 (RPG), 0.9 (APG), 9.6 (PIE)
- Talen “TH-T” Horton-Tucker – 23.3 (PPG), 7.3 (RPG), 2.0 (APG), 13.6 (PIE)
Since we live in a statistics-hungry generation, it’s hard to ignore the numbers. I know that the small sample could skew the comparison, but let’s talk about it anyway. AD is averaging more points than last season’s average (21.8) but less than his championship season (26.1). Russ averages fewer points than last season (22.2) and the bubble season (27.2). It’s unfair to point this out because he was the first or second option when he was with the Wizards and Rockets. Melo is averaging more points than last season with the Blazers (13.4) and a fracture less during his first tenure with Dame and CJ (15.4). And last but not least, Talen more than doubled his average last season (9.0) and more than quadrupled his average during his rookie year (5.7).
Talking about other metrics like rebounds and assists is vital. For example, if the following Lakers I mentioned had more offensive rebounds, it would increase the chance of getting more buckets–thus increasing their PPGs. Similarly, an uptick in assists mathematically raises a player’s PPG.
However, the data that needs discussing is the slice of the PIE for every Lakers player. What is PIE (Player Impact Estimate), by the way? According to NBA.com, “PIE shows what % of game events did that player or team achieve…A team that achieves more than 50% is likely to be a winning team.” PIE can be an ambiguous metric when attached to a player. Let me explain. Right now, RJ Nembhard Jr. from the Cavaliers has 40.0 (PIE) and is ranked number 1. Does that mean anything, though? Perhaps it does since the Cavaliers have more wins than losses this season. And if the PIE metric is attached to a team instead, it appears to be easily digestible. Exhibit A: the Golden State Warriors have 58.5 (PIE) ranked first, while the Lakers have 49.2 (PIE) ranked thirteenth.
As much as we dislike calling out players for not stepping up, I think it’s necessary to point it out. Not to embarrass them but rather inspire them to pick up the slack, so one player doesn’t have to carry the burden of driving the team to the promised land.