Plaschke: 0-82? Winless, helpless and hopeless Lakers have a new magic number

Russell Westbrook


That is the outrageous question Lakers fans must be asking themselves today after the most outrageous opening stretch in franchise history.

The Lakers have played five games. They have lost five games. Sometimes they have looked hapless. Other times they have looked helpless. Always they have looked hopeless.

They have been blown out. They have blown a seven-point lead in the last two minutes. They have lost at home. They have lost on the road. They have lost to the reigning NBA champions. They have lost to a team that last season lost 68% of its games.

They have been the worst-scoring team in the NBA. They have been the worst three-point shooting team in NBA history. They are in the top three in the league in turnovers.

Russell Westbrook, who is making $47 million this season, missed all 11 shots in one game. Anthony Davis, newly nicknamed “Street Clothes,” has already been sidelined with a back injury. LeBron James is off to the worst shooting start in his 20-year career.

One of their starting lineups has included Troy Brown Jr. and Damian Jones. Their best three-point shooter has been Matt Ryan. Lakers fans have been like, who?

At one point, Westbrook accused the team of causing his hamstring injury by playing him as a reserve instead of a starter. At another point, James criticized the roster construction. Poor Darvin Ham is already sounding exactly like poor Frank Vogel.

“We haven’t really been whole,” the new coach told reporters Friday in Minnesota. “I’m just looking forward to that day when we get healthy and we’re able to really have a variety of directions we can go in with our lineup based on guys being healthy and available.”

Boos at home. Taunts on the road. “Oh-and-five … oh-and-five!” Shudders everywhere. Questions abound.

Are they ever going to win a game? And when they do, is it going to be too late?

Fear not, they probably won’t threaten the worst start in NBA history, an 0-18 mark shared by the 2015-2016 Philadelphia 76ers and the 2009-2010 New Jersey Nets.

However, faced with six consecutive games against teams with winning records, they could easily fall to 0-11 before a Nov. 11 home game against also-winless Sacramento.

Also, don’t worry, they shouldn’t threaten the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers’ record for fewest wins in an 82-game season with nine.

Yet the only other time in Los Angeles they began a season 0-5, the 2014-2015 Lakers finished 21-61, so the next six months might feel like nine wins.

Time to panic? Um, yes. A call for front-office action? You think?

Just listen to the words of their most credible celebrity diehard fan Flea, a positive dude who has always supported the Lakers unconditionally.

Earlier this week he tweeted, “This laker team is not equipped to win.”

A day later he tweeted, “Dear Rob Pelinka, do something now. Either blow it all up and rebuild, or mortgage the future to fix the lack of chemistry and skill on this basketball team. Do not let another season meander its way down the drain, wasting the great LeBron James’ sunset of his career.”

Amen. This space has made the same pleas, again and again, beginning last season when it was obvious that the trade for Westbrook gutted their title hopes and turned them into a nightly cringe.

At this point, the hope that Davis can stay on the court is gone, the hope that Westbrook can fit into the system is gone, and if changes aren’t made, soon the season will be gone.

If it’s not gone already.

First thing, the Lakers need to finally, seriously entertain the idea of trading Davis. C’mon, can they at least think about it?

In doing so, they must surrender the hope that he can ever take the torch from James and lead them to a championship. He can’t. He won’t. His body — and his mentality — won’t let him.

Give up the belief that he’ll ever be resilient. Give up the trust that he’ll do the proper offseason training. Give up the notion that he’ll ever be a season-long force. Give him up for a couple of first-round draft picks and start the rebuilding process.

In failing to stay on the court even for the first five games this season, Davis’ longstanding injury issues have become about more than his body. For the first time, a teammate said his injuries are also intertwined with his mental state.

“He has to do what’s best for his body and his mind,” said James on Friday. “If his mind is gone, then everything else will fall to the wayside.”

Lakers forward Anthony Davis, dunking against Clippers center Ivica Zubac on Oct. 20

In other words, not only does Davis have to be tougher, he has to believe he can be tougher. If that hasn’t happened by now, it’s not going to happen.

Ship him off now, get younger, get more draft capital, at least give your fans hope that there is a future beyond the potential for 0-11.

While they’re at it, trade Westbrook too. This was written here earlier last week, and even his decent performance off the bench in Minnesota doesn’t change that view. He still doesn’t fit. It still doesn’t work. He can bring them a couple of shooters who could help them at least compete for a play-in spot, which will at least keep the fans entertained until more moves can be made next summer.

You know what this team really needs? Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso.

You remember what happened to those three championship players? Traded, traded and allowed to walk as a free agent.

You know what they’re trying to win with now? Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves.

You watched what those guys have done in five games? Beverley has scored six total baskets, Walker is shooting 15% from the three-point arc, and last season’s favorite Reaves has been mostly invisible.

Even though it’s surely difficult to work under the heavy thumb of Klutch Sports, Pelinka made some glaring errors, and now he needs to work overtime to save the season. There were some indications this summer that another missed playoff would put his job in jeopardy, but the recent news of his four-year contract extension pretty much dismisses that idea.

The entire situation is an unholy mess with no quick fix, no easy escape, no real hope, and only one real optimistic certainty.

At some point this season, the Lakers will actually win a basketball game.

Um, right?

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