The Los Angeles Lakers won the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament in the beginning of December and it looked like it would serve as a launching pad for the title-contending team. Instead, it has served as the peak of this season, as things have only gone downhill since.
Los Angeles continued its poor play since winning the NBA Cup on the grandest stage on Christmas. The Boston Celtics came into town and handed the Lakers another loss with a relatively comfortable 126-115 win. It was obvious throughout who the better team was.
With the loss, the Lakers are now 16-15 on the season and are ninth in the Western Conference. Los Angeles is 2-6 since beating the Indiana Pacers in Las Vegas with the two wins being against the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. It has been a dark stretch for the purple and gold.
This rough patch could absolutely influence what the Lakers do at the trade deadline this season and LeBron James is already letting his opinion be heard. Following the Christmas Day loss, LeBron sent an obvious message to Rob Pelinka and the front office that should be heard loud and clear.
LeBron James sends loud and clear message to Lakers front office
If LeBron James says that the team is not good enough to contend with the top teams in the league then chances are he is right. This is not the first time LeBron has done this, as we have seen his teams undergo drastic changes at the deadline several times in the past when he doesn't think the team is good enough.
To be fair, LeBron also talked about the Lakers not being healthy while other top teams in the league are. LeBron did attribute some of the team's struggles to that fact but as it stands right now, the Lakers are not even that banged up. The only significant rotation player who was hurt on Christmas was Gabe Vincent, who is going to be out another 6-8 weeks.
LeBron can hide his message in the mirage of health issues but it is not hard to see what he is hinting at. James is very calculated in what he says in the media and why he says it. If he is telling reporters that the Lakers are not good enough, regardless of the reason, then it has to be seen as a message to the front office.
All the pieces of the puzzle come together when you look at the other things happening on the Lakers as well. D'Angelo Russell has seen his role be reduced as the season has gone along, which led to him being benched from the starting lineup. Russell is LA's biggest trade chip. These two things are not independent of each other.
Then there is Rui Hachimura, who has long been viewed as another trade chip for LA. Hachimura hasn't really carved out a consistent role in LA and even when he does get more minutes, he hasn't been overly impressive. He certainly is not untouchable.
The Los Angeles Lakers are going to be the most interesting team in the entire league to follow during the trade deadline, especially if LeBron James continues to drop comments like this in the media. If the losses continue to pile up, expect LA to be heavily involved in upcoming trade rumors.
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