The Los Angeles Lakers‘ 2022-23 season hasn’t gotten off to the start they had hoped as they are 0-3 and arguably the worst shooting team in NBA history.
There have been some positive takeaways such as the strong play of their defense, but that has gotten overshadowed by the poor shooting, especially last in games.
The last two games, in particular, have been extremely rough down the stretch as the Lakers held fourth-quarter leads against the L.A. Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers but weren’t able to hang onto them due to poor shot selection and execution.
So far, the main culprit has been Russell Westbrook with him combining to shoot 4-for-26 in the last two games. He is not the only one that has fired up some ill-advised shots though as LeBron James has as well.
Two shots stand out in the Portland game as James fired up a 40-foot airball early in the shot clock, albeit much earlier in the game, and then Westbrook inexplicably went for a 2-for-1 late in the game with his team leading. The Trail Blazers were daring him to shoot and he took the bait by firing up a midrange jumper, missing and allowing Portland to come down and take the lead.
Both shots were bad, but we are going to examine which was worse.
The Lakers found themselves trailing by 8 early thanks to their inability to make outside jump shots. After getting a long rebound, James took matters into his own hands and fired up a shot from San Bernadino with 14 on the shot clock.
James has made some of these in the past and it makes the home crowd go wild, but this time was much different:
So there are a couple of reasons why James may have attempted this shot. As an older gentleman, sometimes you just get fed up with what is happening in front of you and act impulsively. If I watched my team brick 3 after 3 after 3, I would probably be a lot angrier than LeBron has demonstrated.
The second possible reason though, and I think this may be more likely, is that James thought that the NBA implemented a 4-point line. What easier way to get your team back in a game than to score four points on one possession? And as someone who is chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to be the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, knocking down a few 4-point shots will certainly get James there quicker. The only problem? There is no 4-point shot (yet at least, I’m sure Adam Silver has thought of the idea).
In all honesty though, this was a hilariously ill-advised shot by James. Even if he wanted to take a 3, he could’ve taken a couple of dribbles and still had no defenders near him.
The thing about LeBron’s shot though is that it was in the second quarter. After that, he played a really solid game and led the Lakers back to the point where they had an 8-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Westbrook, on the other hand, shot 4-for-15 in the game and watched from the bench while the Lakers made their run in the fourth quarter.
With the Lakers leading by one late, instead of running clock and getting a good shot, Westbrook went “Leroy Jenkins” thinking they needed a 2-for-1:
As if the announcers, crowd and Blazers bench didn’t say it all, here was the reaction from Westbrook’s teammates:
Look, I’m not trying to pile on Westbrook here. While he has been a problem for the Lakers, he’s far from the only problem.
But this shot, and his reasoning behind it, is just inexcusable for an NBA player with as much experience as he has. If this was a rec league and a 10-year-old fired up that shot, I’d still be angry but I’d get over it much quicker and use it as a teaching opportunity for a young player with little experience.
That fact that an NBA player making $47 million did it with the game on the line though? Just can’t happen.
Sure, LeBron’s shot was silly and he is not above criticism for the Lakers’ 0-3 start. But when the whole arena knows Westbrook shouldn’t shoot, and that’s exactly what the Blazers wanted him to do and he still does it anyway, that is unquestionably worse. I still can’t believe it happened and that the Lakers lost the game, but if this team has shown us anything over the last two years it’s that things can ALWAYS get worse.