The young Lakers have shown signs of promise through the first half of the 2017-18 NBA season. Right before Christmas, they managed to knock off James Harden and the Rockets thanks to a 38-point performance from rookie Kyle Kuzma, and on New Year’s Eve, they took the Rockets down to the wire again in a double overtime thriller before ultimately losing.
But since that initial win over Houston, the Lakers have lost eight straight games, and players on the team are starting to get incredibly frustrated with the way things are going. In fairness to them, they have a bunch of players, including Kuzma’s fellow rookie Lonzo Ball, dealing with injuries at the moment, which isn’t helping matters much. But just last week, Lakers players held a team meeting to air out their grievances with one another and with team management, which seems dead-set on making a run at several big-name free agents this summer rather than simply building around the strong nucleus that’s already in place.
It doesn’t appear as though that meeting made much of a difference in terms of the way the team is playing right now, though, and on Wednesday night, the Lakers played arguably one of their worst games of the entire season. They lost—at home—to the Thunder, and the game wasn’t pretty at all. The Lakers trailed by about 40 points at times during the game before eventually losing 133-96.
The Lakers put on such a poor performance in front of their home crowd at the Staples Center that, after the game, Kuzma ripped the Lakers and said the team "flat-out gave up" against the Thunder. He called the team out for not being competitive and said that it was "embarrassing" to lose the way they did to Oklahoma City.
"We gave up," said Kuzma, who scored 18 points in the loss. "You could see, they got basket after basket, we had no resistance on them on the defensive end and offensive end. When things got tough, we tried to do it individually, and you can’t do that in this league. They took a little lead and we just went to being selfish on the floor. We didn’t compete on defense. They killed us…To lose by [nearly] 40, it is pretty embarrassing to be out there."
Lakers head coach Luke Walton agreed with Kuzma’s assessment. Walton couldn’t explain why, but he also said he felt the Lakers "gave in" when things got tough for the team against the Thunder.
"It felt a little bit like we gave in or we felt sorry for ourselves a little bit, which isn’t who we are as a group," Walton said. "I am going to have to check the tape to see why we completely stopped competing out there. Our fans deserve better than that, and our organization deserves better than that."
Kuzma continued by calling the loss to the Thunder "five steps back" for the Lakers. He also said that he doesn’t think the current Lakers roster is doing the franchise as a whole justice.
"Something has to change for sure," he said. "That is not being a Laker. I have only been a Laker for a couple of months, but that’s not it."
If there’s a silver lining in all of this for Lakers fans, it’s that Kuzma took to Twitter shortly after speaking with reporters on Wednesday night and sent out a tweet encouraging fans to stick with the team. He promised that the Lakers are going to "figure this out" and get the franchise back to its winning ways.
The tweet is, as many NBA fans have already pointed out, reminiscent of a tweet Steph Curry sent out to Warriors fans in 2009 back when that franchise was struggling.
And we all know how that turned out.
But for now, the Lakers are going to have to continue to take their lumps and learn from blowout losses to much better teams. After playing a pretty grueling schedule over the last two weeks, they have a much easier schedule coming up, and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to Kuzma stepping up and calling the entire team out over their recent struggles.