The LA Lakers have been the talk of the basketball world due to their slow start. Despite coming into the season with high hopes, the Lakers (13-13) have struggled.
The noise surrounding the team has gotten louder each week. After dealing with a number of injuries to start the year, the Lakers have struggled to put together a solid stretch of performances. It's even resulted in the idea that coach Frank Vogel could be on the hot seat if things don't turn around.
On ESPN's "First Take" on Friday, analyst Stephen A. Smith discussed why he believes the Lakers' struggles could be due to LeBron James.
"The culprit, with regards to this in some degree – is LeBron James"
The LA Lakers superstar forward has missed 12 of 26 games because of injuries, suspension, rest and a false positive COVID-19 test. It's huge to have a player like LeBron James out of the rotation for a considerable amount of time. Stephen A. Smith said he understands James has missed considerable time, but
"I know he has been injured and missed about 11 games. He is the guy responsible for the assemblage of this roster. ... When you talk about responsbility, he is clearly the leader of this franchise ... but with that leadership comes the responsibility of taking the brunt of the blame when stuff ain't going right."
The basketball world and national media has been in a chaotic stage over Los Angeles' slow start. Considered a contender in the Western Conference, the Lakers are seventh in the West and have won five of their past 10 games entering a game Friday night at the OKC Thunder (8-16).
Many fingers are being pointed at a number of Lakers, including Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, but the team is struggling on the court as a unit. The Lakers have issues on defense, and they have been one of the worst free-throw shooting teams.
James being out has been a huge deal, and it's going to take some time for the Lakers to see their fully healthy team on the court for an extended period of time before they could potentially make any bold decisions.
When James has played, he's produced at an impressive level. The 36-year-old is averaging 25.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game while shooting 48.9% from the field.