As the Los Angeles Lakers prepare to regroup after a season where they finished with a 37-45 record despite some very lofty expectations, some of the team’s key contributors opened up on Wednesday in their end-of-season interviews about what they believe led to their second-half slump and their sixth straight exit from playoff contention.
As quoted by ESPN, one of those players was reserve shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who recalled that “everybody kind of lost themselves” at the February deadline, as his teammates were all worried about their future with the team. Per ESPN, Caldwell-Pope’s comments also referred to the drama that took place as the Lakers unsuccessfully tried to trade for New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis before the deadline.
“I feel like after that, everybody kind of relaxed, calmed down and just started playing basketball and not worrying about the outside talk,” Caldwell-Pope continued.
Meanwhile, another Lakers shooting guard, second-year man Josh Hart, called the Davis trade rumors “annoying” for himself and his teammates, especially when it came to checking social media and seeing their names mentioned in potential trade packages.
“Obviously, because we’re in L.A., we’ve got [LeBron James], AD did whatever AD did, so I think that amplified…. So, I guess it was annoying. The media made it annoying. Social media made it annoying.”
Much like Caldwell-Pope, Hart said that he and the rest of the Lakers were able to move forward, as no one on the team was frustrated with each other, nor were the players frustrated with the Lakers’ front office. He concluded his piece by saying that the team “tried to control what we control” and tried to maintain professionalism despite the rampant trade rumors.
While Caldwell-Pope and Hart admitted that the distractions of the Davis trade rumors affected team morale, veteran center Tyson Chandler said that injuries were also a “huge factor” that worked against them. Chandler, who was bought out by the Lakers early in the season after several years with the Phoenix Suns, said that the injury problems were especially challenging due to the overall youth of the team, as well as the personnel changes the Lakers made ahead of the 2018-19 NBA season.
“We get so caught up in so much of the negativity. Just to see the positives and see everyone around us saying positive things, I think that was good for me.”https://t.co/cgUp06RcXo
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 10, 2019
From the time that LeBron James said that he would like to team up with Davis, who had requested a trade from the Pelicans, the Lakers won only nine out of 24 games, and most notably lost by 42 points to the Indiana Pacers just a few days ahead of the trade deadline, ESPN recalled.
Despite the extended swoon, which saw the Lakers officially eliminated from the playoffs with several games remaining in the season, the team finished with a 6-4 record in their last 10 games, showing “cohesiveness” even with James, Hart, Chandler, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball all out for the season. This improvement was not lost on veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, who was quoted by ESPN as saying that the Lakers’ bond “got completely stronger” over the last few weeks.
Looking back on the tumultuous 2018-19 campaign that was, multiple Lakers said that the myriad challenges they faced were “worth it,” with Ball emphasizing the importance of remaining “close-knit, no matter what.” Center JaVale McGee added that there are a lot of opportunities that await people who join the team, regardless whether the Lakers are coming off a winning season or not.