Lakers trending upward, front office must look forward
By Bill Oram
Things were already looking up when the Lakers left home for their longest road trip of the season. Beating the hated Celtics tends to lift the spirits of folks around here. The fact it was the Lakers’ third consecutive win made it all the better.
A dozen days and five games later, the Lakers are back and their trajectory has continued to point upward. Three victories in five road games is encouraging for a team that has won fewer than a third of its games over the past four-plus seasons.
It’s a strange time for an identity to come sharply into focus, what with several players on the roster facing murky futures.
The league’s trade deadline is Thursday, and while the Lakers have long been expected to be among the league’s most active teams – dangling Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, most notably – there is nothing that says the Lakers must swing a deal.
There will be ways to clear cap space in the offseason if they are able to sign more than one maximum free agent, although with Paul George increasingly content in OKC and DeMarcus Cousins on the mend with a torn Achilles, it’s a scenario that seems less likely than it once did.
Despite a nine-game losing streak that carried into January, the Lakers posted a winning record last month and are back on track to finish with the best record of any Lakers team since 2012-13.
With their stunning 108-104 win in Oklahoma City on Sunday, the Lakers improved to 21-31. The Lakers led by just three when reigning Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook checked back into the game with 8:09 left.
Prone to late-game collapses, the Lakers did not relent, and pushed their lead to as many as 12 points before escaping with the win despite a preposterously bad final minute […]