However you think this season will work out, it's safe to say it has not gone according to plan for the Los Angeles Lakers so far.
The team entered Tuesday 12-12 despite facing the second-softest schedule in the NBA by RPI. LeBron James has been hurt or otherwise indisposed for half of those games, but even his presence hasn't stopped losses to teams like the Sacramento Kings.
The Lakers entered the season as a clear contender, and they have not looked like one nearly a third of the way into the season. That is going to lead to blame, and popular targets have included Russell Westbrook, the team's aging role players and head coach Frank Vogel, now considered to be on the hot seat.
None of that sits right with TNT's Charles Barkley, who used a pregame show on Tuesday to call out one player: Anthony Davis.
"I blame Anthony Davis… you ain't doing what you supposed to do. You're 27 years old, you're supposed to be in your prime."
Chuck goes in on the Lakers' early-season struggles ?️
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) December 8, 2021
"For the first month of the season, y'all blamed everything on Russell Westbrook, for the Lakers putting all those old-ass geezers together, Now I hear y'all going to fire Frank Vogel. Listen, Russ is learning, Frank Vogel is a terrific coach. Put all them old-ass geezers together and just trying to blame other people, it ain't right and it ain't cool.
"Listen, Anthony Davis, you've got to play better. I said on this first night, if the Lakers were going to be any good, it was all going to be on you. Has nothing to do with Russell, had nothing to do with LeBron and the rest of them old-ass geezers out there. But now y'all done cross the line because I really like Frank Vogel. And listen, it ain't his fault. In my opinion, I blame Anthony Davis.
"Anthony Davis, you know I like you as a person, but you ain't doing what you're supposed to. You're 27 years old. You're supposed to be in your prime. You're supposed to be one of the five best players in the world, up there in Giannis, Kevin Durant, all those guys and you ain't holding up your end of the bargain. So now I hear you're going to fire the coach? That's total BS man."
It has been hard for some to see Davis doing wrong since he helped lead the Lakers to a title in his first season with the team, but Barkley has a point. In games without James, the perennial All-Star has led the Lakers to a 5-7 record with multiple losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who just lost a game by 73 points.
The most concerning part of this season for Davis is his 3-point shooting has continued to fall off a cliff, going from 33% in his first season with the Lakers to 26% last season to 18.8% now, which would be by far the worst mark in the NBA if Davis qualified.
That's a major problem for the Lakers when Westbrook, whose shooting struggles are well-established, is getting the vast majority of minutes. Spacing was widely seen as an issue the Lakers needed to address last offseason, but now their three top players have combined to shoot 30.2% so far this season.
So Davis not playing like a superstar has been a bit of problem, as has the team's shooting, as has its perimeter defense, as has its relationship with Father Time. It's hard to put all that on Vogel or one player, because finding singular reasons for problems in a multi-faceted game is almost always a fool's errand.
Fortunately, the Lakers have plenty of time to right the ship, though Barkley doesn't think they'll do it in time to avoid a second straight trip to the play-in tournament.
"The Los Angeles Lakers will be in the play-ins." ?
Chuck gives his bold predictions for the rest of the season. pic.twitter.com/2g0blWoZi0
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December 8, 2021
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