We are past the halfway point of the NBA's regular season, and the Los Angeles Lakers still look more like a play-in team than a championship contender. Following a brutal 133-96 loss at Denver on Saturday night, LeBron James tweeted to Laker Nation an apology and a vow to improve.
#LakerNation I apologize and I promise we'll be better! 👑💜💛— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 17, 2022
James and the Lakers delivered on that promise immediately, beating the Utah Jazz 101-95 on Monday to pick up their best win of the season. That win gave Lakers fans a glimpse of how this team can live up to James' promise for the remainder of the season, but it was quickly followed by another bad loss, and the fourth-quarter benching of Russell Westbrook, against the Indiana Pacers.
The Lakers are at a fork in the road. Either they will struggle the rest of the year and cement the notion that this roster was broken from the jump, or they will use the big Utah win and the imminent return of Anthony Davis to flip the switch and prove the haters wrong.
If they can keep up the level of play they demonstrated Monday, the Lakers could make noise in the postseason. If they revert to the team that got blown out in Denver and lost at home versus a struggling Indiana team, they might not even make the playoffs. It's that simple.
So what do the Lakers need to focus on to have a shot, even a distant one, at hanging banner No. 18? It comes down to five areas of improvement, the first of which is by far the easiest.