The Lakers hadn’t been in this position since Oct. 20, the last time their basketball team fell one win short of a .500 record.
That was the second regular season game.
A lot has changed since then.
In that loss to the Clippers, Russell Westbrook missed all 11 shots, Patrick Beverley made just one of seven attempts and four of the five reserves who logged minutes are no longer on the roster.
However, after the Lakers flipped their roster and completely flipped the energy of the locker room one thing hasn’t changed.
The Lakers aren’t even at .500 yet.
After winning three straight games, the Lakers lost a chance to tie for sixth place in the Western Conference on Sunday, losing to the New York Knicks 112-108.
D’Angelo Russell, whose fourth-quarter mammoth shutout of the Toronto Raptors on Friday, was hot Sunday on 13-of-19 shooting for a season-high 33 points, but was outplayed by former teammate Julius Randle.
Randle scored 33 on 11-of-24 shooting from the field, while going 8-of-11 from the free throw line, as his offense set the tone for the Knicks, who were without point guard Jalen Brunson.
Lakers De’Angelo Russell pulls on his jersey with both hands after making a three-pointer against the Knicks on Sunday afternoon at Crypto.com Arena.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
And in the fourth quarter, RJ Barrett’s repeated drives to the basket gave the Lakers trouble, as his layup with 2:34 left put the Knicks up by 10 points. Barrett finished with 30 points.
The Lakers came back to make it a one-possession game in the final 20 seconds, but the team couldn’t get a Knicks player to foul on the final possession, draining the clock with 14 seconds left.
Another former Laker, Josh Hart, made both free throws to ice the game.
Anthony Davis scored only 17 points, but grabbed 16 rebounds.
LeBron James returned to the Lakers bench after missing the last two games due to medical reasons. He no longer wore a protective walking boot on his injured right foot.
“Everything is going according to plan,” Ham said of James’ recovery.
Earlier this week, James posted a video from an undisclosed remote location, joking about the paparazzi following him while walking a wild animal.
“I’ve experienced that with (Kobe Bryant) and Giannis (Antetokounmpo), these guys have different ways, when you’re at that level, you have different ways to treat different injuries,” Ham said. “And it’s also good for him to disconnect a little bit. Don’t necessarily get carried away, but mentally calm down a bit with everything that happened during the year. … It’s been a lot.
“So it’s not just about being healthy, it’s about being in a good place mentally and spiritually, so when he comes back we’re going to get the best version of him.”