The Lakers, for the second straight time to open the season, were featured on TNT in a loss to a Western Conference contender, this time losing 103-97 to a Clippers team that never felt like they were really going full speed.
While it was a better showing from the Lakers in the sense that they battled back from a big first half deficit to make it competitive and even take a brief fourth quarter lead, the weaknesses of this roster were on full display. The team shot 9-of-45 from three, with their three point guards — Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, and Kendrick Nunn — combining to go 1-of-25 from the field. It was a horrific shooting performance, but that doesn’t feel like an outlier for this team as LeBron noted after their opening night loss to the Warriors that they simply don’t have many shooters.
Charles Barkley, who has already demanded the Lakers trade Russ for killing his joy for the game (something Paul George seems to agree with), once again ripped Rob Pelinka and the Lakers management for putting another “embarrassment” of a roster around James.
"What [the Lakers] putting around LeBron is an embarrassment… Somebody is not doing their job in LA. Period."
— 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙉𝘽𝘼 (@_Talkin_NBA) October 21, 2022
However, he also had a challenge for LeBron, which was to publicly call out Anthony Davis and demand that the Lakers lone star in his prime step up to be the best player on the team.
“I got to challenge LeBron. He’s got to come after AD… We should not be asking a 38-year old guy to be the best player on his team.”
Chuck on the Lakers pic.twitter.com/ibFV6TuKek
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) October 21, 2022
As Barkley notes, LeBron at 38 is still great but he can’t be expected to carry a team that has a star that was once considered a potential future face of the league (and was somehow named to the NBA’s 75 Greatest Players list). Charles’ point about Davis’ slide down the list of the league’s best is notable, as he was someone that many thought could become a perennial MVP contender, but instead he has been surpassed by a lot of guys and isn’t even considered on that shortlist for a variety of reasons.
Health is among them, and Davis took another bump on Thursday with a hard fall that left him bruised up and moving a bit gingerly in the second half, but he’s also just taken a step back since the Bubble, where he looked, briefly, like the final form many thought he could be. For the Lakers to have any chance, they certainly need to make a trade and upgrade the roster, but Barkley is probably right that they also need Davis to be more than just a sidekick and at least share the reins with James as an equal.