Facing a team below them in the standings that was playing with a patchwork roster, the Los Angeles Lakers still managed to find a way to lose to the Trail Blazers on Wednesday, 107-105, to fall four games under .500 for the first time this season.
Afterward, LeBron James admitted that Thursday’s trade deadline, which could prove consequential for a Lakers squad that came into the season openly touting its championship goal, is affecting the team.
“Obviously, this is something that’s weighing on this group that we’re all trying to get through,” said James, who led L.A. with 30 points but also coughed up six turnovers while controlling the offense with Russell Westbrook out due to tightness in his lower back. “Almost feels like it’s a fog, just fog in the air. And we’re all trying to see what’s on the other side of it.”
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It was L.A.’s sixth loss in its past eight games. The only wins in that stretch came against the New York Knicks, after rallying from a 21-point deficit, and the Blazers, who were without their star, Damian Lillard. Lillard also sat out Wednesday’s contest.
James’ dour demeanor was reminiscent of how he processed the Lakers’ loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, when he admitted his team was not at the level of the defending NBA champions.
He might have been even more exasperated following the loss to the Blazers, who not only were missing Lillard but had two of the key acquisitions from the CJ McCollum trade — Josh Hart and Eric Bledsoe — in street clothes.
“Literally just — I’m tired as hell right now,” James said. “I just want to get some wine and get up tomorrow. I feel good about what tomorrow has in store, and we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens as far as the deadline, but other than that, I’m kind of just focused on what we can do to be better.”
The Lakers, who don’t play again until Saturday in San Francisco against the Golden State Warriors, have a team function planned at a vineyard in Napa Valley, sources told ESPN.
Before any bottles are popped, the Lakers’ front office will see if it can uncork a trade to mix things up for a group that is trending in the wrong the direction.
Tuesday’s loss to the Bucks caused a harsh realization within the Lakers’ locker room of just how much the current roster is not working, sources told ESPN. Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka will be tasked with turning that tide.
Westbrook missed his first game all season on Wednesday, and so the loss to the Blazers was a rare occasion in which none of the blame could fall on his shoulders.
Still, considering how things have gone in the other 55 games Westbrook has played in, it came as no surprise when Lakers coach Frank Vogel was asked about the possibility of Westbrook being traded following the Portland game.
“If there’s ways to improve our team, we’ll try to improve our team,” Vogel, responding to the question, said without mentioning Westbrook by name. “Other than that, I got nothing to say about the trade deadline.”
Anthony Davis, who said after Tuesday’s loss that the Lakers should strive to go 3-0 heading into the All-Star break to “feel good about ourselves,” had nothing to say about the trade deadline, either. He declined to speak to reporters after putting up 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five blocks against the Blazers.
The only player to conduct a media session other than James was third-year veteran Talen Horton-Tucker, who has been the subject of various trade reports.
When asked about the deadline, the 21-year-old guard said, “You never know what’s going to happen, and it’s a lot of things that are out of your control.”
He admitted the Lakers’ recent tailspin and ever-changing lineups have made the group feel “on edge,” but he continued to hold out hope that L.A. could still make something out of the remaining 26 games of the regular season.
“We’ve got to continue to fight and just to scrape up some wins and get to the finish line,” he said. “If we get there and have a late push, we’ll be fine.”
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