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A definitive ranking of blame for the Los Angeles Lakers' most disappointing season ever

There's a lot of blame for everyone, including LeBron James. (Author: Gardener)

the Los Angeles Lakers'I always thought it would be hard to top the disappointment of the 2012 Los Angeles Lakers. This should be one of the greatest teams ever assembled. You bring in Dwight Howard in his prime, Steve Nash fresh off a Western Conference Finals run and you're running them alongside Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace? Yes, that sounds world class to me. But it obviously wasn't. Well, until he tore his Achilles tendon at the end of the season. Somehow, however, this current Lakers team has fared worse. They got one of the greatest players of all time in LeBron James who teamed up with Anthony Davis and then they added a Hall of Famer like Russell Westbrook. Many people had this team set for a preseason NBA Finals. But they narrowly missed the playoffs. They won't even make the play-in. This Lakers team is absolutely the biggest disappointment in franchise history. People are probably surprised that Westbrook only gets 10% of the blame here. He's had a pretty terrible season by his own standards. His player efficiency rating was literally the lowest of his career at a spot-on 15, which is widely considered to be the mark of a roughly average NBA player. The Lakers didn't trade Russ for being average. Despite this, Westbrook was completely out of his element this season. After playing with the ball in his hands his entire career, he essentially sacrificed point guard duty to LeBron James, as is generally the way to go. But he was asked to play a style that didn't suit him and it's not his fault. Anthony Davis just wasn't there enough for the Lakers, and if we're being honest, that's probably at the root of their downfall. In a perfect Lakers world, Davis is probably their best player, anchoring their defense and crushing opposing bigs on offense. Davis played 40 games that year. He also played 36 in the 2020/21 season. That's 76 games over two seasons - less than half of the 154 total games played. That's his biggest mistake at this point. But the thing is, Davis isn't asking to be hurt. He doesn't try to sit out games. These things just happen. You can't blame him for that. That's why it's only 10%. Frank Vogel is said to be the mastermind behind the whole thing. He is meant to guide his players and make important decisions in tight games that will change the tide for the Lakers. But it kind of felt like he'd been doing the opposite all season. He used two big lineups far too often when Anthony Davis was healthy and paired him with Deandre Jordan or Dwight Howard early in the season instead of just playing Davis at center. And he did that while playing Russell Westbrook as point guard, which left three non-shooters out there at any given time. He was their best shot and probably should have started a lot more than he did. But here, too, Vogel worked with what he had. That roster was just far too poorly constructed to give Vogel much of the blame. When the Lakers made the trade with Russell Westbrook, the idea was that their athleticism and speed would overwhelm everyone else. So what if they gave up two rotation players in Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for this? That was the thinking there. And it turned out to be completely wrong. When you match three big salaries like James, Westbrook, and Davis, you need to fill out the rest of the list of minimum contracts and cheap deals because that's all you can afford. But the thing about these cheap deals is that they're cheap for a reason. These players are not that good anymore. At first they may never have been so good. And while James, Davis, and Westbrook may have been good enough in the past to make this work, they absolutely aren't today. Pelinka should have seen that. He should have been more honest about his talent and he shouldn't have made the leap into the Westbrook trade. It doomed her season. Look I know what you're thinking. LeBron James is currently averaging 30.3 points per game due to his incredible efficiency. He was one of the best players in the NBA and he is also 37 years old. He did his best this season to avert the Lakers' downfall, and he deserves credit for that. But how much credit should one get for cleaning up a mess they're partly responsible for? Here's a tidbit from an article in The Athletic that dives into the inner workings of the Lakers' off-season war room, in which LeBron James was essentially a lead. It had everything to do with the Lakers not making a move for Buddy Hield and trading Westbach for him. "All along the way, it's clear that James - who had everything to do with Davis returning to the Lakers in November 2019 - once again led the way on the recruiting front. His undeniable influence and outspoken style inevitably reignited discussion of the inner workings of the Lakers.” But Davis, James and Westbrook all got together about it, according to the LA Times, and decided they could play together. The idea was that they had a player built for the postseason and not just the regular season. And it was one where James took the lead. Obviously, he didn't call Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard to ultimately make the move. But he actively recruited Westbrook. And ultimately, if he wanted the deal to be finalized, it always had to be finalized. That's the way things work. Sure, James has been amazing this season. But he does it in a mess he's partly to blame for.

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Why the Lakers needed to be embarrassed, plus Tiger Woods is back but the Masters is still wide open

With LeBron James back out, the Lakers' postseason opportunities evaporated (Author: Gardener)

Tiger WoodsI hope you had a better night than the Lakers. This is the article version of the CBS Sports HQ AM morning newsletter. Tiger Woods is back folks. After training at Augusta National last week and declaring a game-time decision on Sunday, the five-time Masters tournament champion said at his press conference yesterday, "I have a feeling I'm going to play." If all goes according to plan by his 10:34 start time tomorrow, it will be a truly remarkable recovery. * Woods last played in a competitive event at the 2020 Masters, held in November of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the headline from yesterday's press conference was that he plans to play, Woods addressed many other questions, noting that despite not having played in a professional tournament in almost a year and a half, he expects to move on. He is Tiger Woods. Having him back is great for the game of golf. I know what I'm going to do at 10:34 tomorrow morning. * The Panthers are still at the top of our NHL power rankings, but the Wilds are peaking at just the right time. The Lakers have finally been mercifully and officially eliminated from NBA playoff contention following their loss to theSuns and the Spurs' win at the Nuggets. Early in the season, the Lakers had the second-least chance of winning the championship, only behind the nets, but things quickly went sideways. * Russell Westbrook was never a good match for LeBron James and Anthony Davis, so much so that the coaches reportedly pushed Westbrook to trade at the close. * James and Davis, meanwhile, continue to struggle with injuries. They have missed a total of 62 games this season. *Thanks in large part to a depleted assist case, the Lakers are ranked 23rd in defensive standings this season. For reference, they were first last year and third two seasons ago when they won the title. What was perhaps most surprising is the complete lack of a sense of urgency from the Lakers. On March 1, they woke up ninth in the Western Conference: not great, but far from a losing season, especially given the injury woes they were dealing with. Now, two years from their championship, the Lakers have more questions than answers. While their descent from title contenders to missing out on the playoffs is shocking, this end result might actually be for the best, writes our NBA expert Sam Quinn. * Quinn: “The Lakers needed to be embarrassed. They had to end that season in such a humiliating way that the franchise rulers could no longer ignore how badly they had let it happen. Any notion that they could wear the same nonchalant attitude that communicated their trade deadline into the offseason needed to be erased here and now. There is a fundamentally broken team that needs quick and decisive action from supposed organizational leaders to fix. One of my favorite drills every spring is back: ranking all the players in the Masters field. Our golf expert Kyle Porter has done the honors and his top player is looking for his first green jacket: While an overall disappointment throughout his grand championship career, he strikes the perfect balance of experience and one of the best tee-offs on green games the planet and not exhausted by too many failures (like Ernie Els). That means the average Masters champion wins after 6.4 tries. Meanwhile, current world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler — who has three PGA Tour wins this season, the most of any player — ranks sixth: * Porter: “His climb from No. 14 to No. 1 happened within six years" for weeks, which means his golf was searing, but he might not have had long-term staying power at this point. Regardless, he's been good at major championships. The matchplay event felt a bit like a highlight of his run , but perhaps the ride still has a peak." Where all 91 players (yes, including Tiger Woods) are competing, you can see the full leaderboard and expert predictions and tips for the tournament here. Believe it or not, tomorrow is opening day. Baseball's offseason hasn't exactly been smooth sailing, but we're getting a whole 162-game tally, and I'm excited about it...even though my beloved Nationals probably won't be very good. In the meantime, it's time to get bold with some predictions, and MLB pundit Mike Axisa has a new face emerging as a star. * Axisa: “When he's healthy, Byron Buxton makes the difference on both sides of the ball and for my first bold prediction I say Buxton will stay healthy this season. And by staying healthy he will win AL MVP. He is so good and so talented and at the age of 28 Buxton is in the midst of his prime. A full, healthy season from Buxton could include 40 home runs, 30 steals and the sport's best central defense. He's a 10-WAR season waiting to happen." Mike also made his championship prediction and it's probably not a team you're expecting. On the opening day of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, Manchester City won 1: 0 against Atlético Madrid and Liverpool 3-1 against Benfica Kevin de Bruyne scored the only goal for the Premier League leaders in his win, while Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz all scored for Reds Football guru James Benge predicts a close affair between the Blues and Los Blancos: * Benge: "Even if the Blues are more cautious in the first leg, a front three with Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz, the N' Golo Kante bringing the ball to them, needs to be mitigated, especially when Reece James is doing anything remotely close to his best, so don't be surprised if Carlo Ancelotti decides to just pack his defense... you wi know what Chelsea can do to them in the open field. Don't expect goals or even shots galore. ⚽ Chelsea vs Real Madrid, 3pm on CBS and Paramount+

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The Lakers were eliminated from playoff contention by a loss to the Suns

The 121-110 loss -- the Lakers' seventh straight -- guarantees their frustrating season won't stretch beyond the three games remaining. (Author: Gardener)

SunsA star is injured. But the Lakers' mistakes, mishaps and misfortunes have accumulated debt, and the bill came due Tuesday night at the Footprint Center. A season that began with title fight proclamations finally collapsed when the Lakers (31-48) lost 121-110 to the league-leading Phoenix Suns and were eliminated from the postseason with three games remaining in the regular season. It was the Lakers' seventh consecutive loss, all in progressively higher-stakes games. Russell Westbrook raced through the paint for 28 points, one of his better scoring games than Laker, but it wasn't enough. Anthony Davis trudged through the pain of a sprained right foot to claw 21 points and 13 rebounds, but it wasn't enough. "I can say that it wasn't due to a lack of effort: we all worked hard," said coach Frank Vogel. "Our boys fought to the end." When the Lakers fell this season, they fell hard -- and their last meaningful game was no exception. After a half break with the Suns (who eliminated them in the first round of last year's playoffs), Phoenix put on them in a 35-22 third quarter that made the end like a tag. Vogel called a time-out and his team trotted back to the bench with their heads down, mentally beaten with more than 15 minutes to go. Much of the work was done by Devin Booker, the 25-year-old Suns star who takes delight in tearing the Lakers apart. After scoring 47 points in last season's Game 6 series clincher, he poured in 32 points to set any remaining Lakers hopes on fire. Including last year's playoffs, the Suns have now won the last seven games between the teams. Just 18 months away from their own title, the Lakers will now spend the playoffs at home. It is made all the more bitter by the accumulation of star power and experience in their dressing room. Disappointment,” Davis said of his simmering feelings after the loss. "Because we know what it takes to get to that level of championship, and for the last two years, the last two seasons, we haven't been able to do that." Over the months, injuries and an underperforming roster have cornered the Lakers , in which they needed everything to walk properly to give them one last chance at redemption. As the Lakers attempted to fend off the Suns in the second quarter, a crucial part of the Lakers' downfall clicked: The San Antonio Spurs -- led by an old franchise rival in Gregg Popovich -- managed to knock out the favored Denver Nuggets down the street without a dejounte murray In Sacramento, the New Orleans Pelicans successfully held off the Kings and dried up the Lakers' paths to the play-in tournament between ranks 9th and 10th in the Western Conference. The Lakers had dashed their own hopes over the past week, falling twice home and away to the Pelicans. Veteran striker Carmelo Anthony is struggling to put a finger on why the team never found their backbone in the most desperate of times. "You haven't seen a lot of guys just drifting apart: it's weird," he said. One of the biggest blows to the Lakers' fading postseason dreams came hours before the tip when the team ruled out LeBron James, whose left ankle was too stiff and sore to play despite the high stakes. Sitting on the bench, James wore a white "LAKE SHOW" t-shirt featuring caricatures of franchise greats including Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers made their big move in July, trading for Westbrook while other potential deals remained on the table. Centered around the "Big Three" they assembled a veteran-packed roster of nine players aged 32 or older, including five who were at least 35 years old. While that philosophy met with some public skepticism, the Lakers brazenly proclaimed their experience as a distinct advantage. "We have a couple of guys who have been in this league for quite a while and understand and know what it takes to win," James said during media day in September. But the Lakers have never won as consistently as they had envisioned, in part because injuries took a toll on them right away. James missed a number of early games with an abdominal strain and other problems, and in December Davis was out with a sprained knee. Overall, the Lakers' three stars only played 21 games together - but it's not clear if health would have made them a contender, given they were just 11-10 when they joined. Many of the veterans brought in to roleplay were discarded: Wayne Ellington, Kent Bazemore, and Trevor Ariza were among the players who didn't crack the rotation by the end of the season. Rajon Rondo and DeAndre Jordan did not finish the season on the roster. All of these problems came together: The Lakers never won another straight game after Jan. 7, and after Davis was injured before the All-Star break, the team went just 4-17 after that as serious teams headed for the push made the playoffs. The Lakers just withered. On Tuesday night, the Lakers met their fate with acceptance. Vogel briefly shook hands with Sun coach Monty Williams and then quickly left the field. Davis and James took time to shake hands with old friends and teammates before heading back to the locker room. Westbrook was among the last Lakers to leave the jersey. It's unclear how the Lakers will manage these stars going forward. Davis said his foot pain is worse than usual and although James needs to play in two more games to officially be in contention for a scoring title, it could seem like an empty consolation prize after the season has fallen so far short of expectations. They all walked in Tuesday night knowing how serious their situation was. Vogel: “We understand where we stand. The Lakers have never had a worse position all season. "Our goal was to win a championship... injuries got in the way of that." Anthony Davis opens up on the frustration of the three Lakers stars who aren't getting a chance to figure it out and log minutes due to injuries. @LakersReporter pic.twitter.com/nSp7iFJSHZ “It wasn't due to a lack of effort...we just fell short in an incoherent season. We're all disappointed.” Frank Vogel with @LakersReporter on the #Lakers missing the 2022 playoffs. pic.twitter.com/i2dnV0HxZx

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LeBron James needs to reflect after a disastrous Lakers season

If winning remains LeBron James' top priority, he should seriously consider pushing for an offseason trade from the Lakers. (Author: Gardener)

LeBron JamesLeBron James has only 25 wins for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, marking the lowest single-season tally of his 19-year career. LOS ANGELES — LeBron James spices up his press conferences with catchphrases and mantras, including a line from Stephen Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," relayed by Miami Heat President Pat Riley: "Keep these Main thing is main thing." The aphorism encourages prioritization and maintaining focus, key principles for a superstar athlete like James, whose busy life off court includes entertainment ventures, philanthropic endeavors and advocacy for social justice, not to mention his wife and his three children."If I were a S---basketball player, none of this would be possible," James stated in 2019. "The main thing is basketball. Unfortunately, James' basketball environment is in ruins and his team's immediate prospects are considered to be." the darkest point of his 19-year career, thanks to a 121-110 loss to the Phoenix Su on Tuesday ns the Los Angeles Lakers were officially eliminated from the Western Conference play-in tournament. James sat out the crucial loss with a sprained ankle as the Lakers failed to make the playoffs for the second time in his four-year tenure at Los Angeles. Doomed by the ill-advised swap for Russell Westbrook and repeated injuries to James and Anthony Davis, this horrific campaign could not have ended soon enough for its stars, its embattled coach or its irate fanbase. Missing the play-in and avoiding the possibility of an embarrassing loss in the first round is considered sweet relief. The Lakers seemed to realize they were fundamentally broken and unable to contend for a title before they hit the trade deadline, and their 4-17 record since the All-Star hiatus was an agonizing mess punctuated by breakdowns in the second half and loud boos for Westbrook. Mercifully firing Coach Frank Vogel and finding a way to trade Westbrook's $47 million contract won't fix everything that's plaguing these Lakers. Those moves would remove some nagging sources of tension, but would do little to improve the franchise's title prospects for 2023. There are too many other issues to address, including limited cap flexibility, a lack of young rotary players to grow into bigger roles, and a depleted pool of draft picks. There's also no good reason to think that 37-year-old James and the oft-injured Davis can remain in good health through an 82-game season and deep playoff run without significantly more help. At best, the Lakers can reclaim some dignity in 2022-23. Additionally, the NBA has too many rising Superstars and too many talented competitors to believe this aging team can go back to the title hunt. These challenging circumstances created an intriguing summer for James, who spent the All-Star weekend flirting with the possibility of returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers and dreaming of a future NBA team with his 17-year-old son, Bronny. They also raise a crucial question: what's most important to James these days? Or are James and his family so comfortable with their busy lives in Los Angeles that maximizing his title prospects is no longer his primary consideration? On the All-Star stage, LeBron James flirts with a post-Lakers future. In 2014, he returned to the Cavaliers feeling the Heat's title window was closing, trading Wade and Bosh for younger co-stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. In 2018, with Cleveland hemmed in by Irving's departure and a constipated cap sheet, James launched a fresh start in Los Angeles. LeBron James won his fourth career title in 2020, but a return to those heights looks increasingly unlikely for the Los Angeles Lakers. At the time, it was reasonable to think that James' move west was motivated more by wealth and fame than basketball. But the Lakers had high-quality young prospects, a stash of draft picks and a front office eager to recreate the franchise's glory days. A blockbuster trade for Davis in 2019 paid off with the 2020 title, a feat that fully justified James' initial decision to sign with the Lakers. Such momentum is no longer possible: Davis has played just 76 games in the last two seasons and James isn't the same player he was four years ago. To be clear, James' best nights, like his 56-point burst last month against the Golden State Warriors, are still spectacular. But his availability, consistency and impact all waned this season despite having an extended offseason to get his physique right. While James could once lead almost any lineup of teammates to a winning record, the Lakers have only played 25-31 on the court this season with their franchise player. James has never had fewer wins in a single season, not even in his rookie year or in two previous injury-plagued campaigns with the Lakers. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant have overtaken James in the NBA's superstar hierarchy, but the Lakers forward could still be the best player on a titular team in the right situation. James' experience is very important in the playoffs, as is his ability to rig matchups and make his teammates better. If he were surrounded by a younger, more talented, and more athletic starting lineup to take some of the pressure off him in the regular season, maybe he could replicate his phenomenal run post-2020 season. James' contract will see him earn $44.5 million next season before he becomes eligible for free agency in July 2023. When James takes him back to Los Angeles, the dominant storyline will be his pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time record. However, this summer and the 2022-23 season would be a lot more interesting if James acknowledged that the Lakers are in a much worse situation than the 2010 Cavaliers, 2014 Heat and 2018 Cavaliers. An off-season trade could give James the opportunity to play basketball more meaningfully next season and give the Lakers a chance to reset their culture and earn draft capital. "But the only thing I've been able to do is keep enjoying the game." James has indeed struggled through this difficult season, chasing a possible scoring title while picking and choosing his spots to deliver unforgettable performances provide. However, James never seemed like the type to fade away quietly. If winning truly remains the driving force in his life, this summer is the right time to explore the possibility of greener pastures. 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Lakers eliminated from playoff contention

There is no NBA title for the Los Angeles Lakers in the near future. What went wrong at Tinseltown this season? (Author: Gardener)

NBANothing in life is guaranteed — but LeBron James usually makes the playoffs. This year's postseason will be different, however, after the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from playoff contention after a 121-110 loss at Phoenix on Tuesday, essentially ending a tumultuous season for James, Anthony Davis, head coach Frank Vogel and the have remainder of the Lakers organization. In 19 professional seasons, James has missed the playoffs just four times: the first two seasons of his career in Cleveland, the 2018-19 season - his first in L. Three of James' four seasons in L. He missed 27 games in his first Tinseltown campaign in 2018-19, and the Lakers finished 10th in the West, 37-45. The next year, however, the Lakers won the bubble championship in Orlando, Florida. finished 42-30 and won the play-in game 7-8 to secure seventh place in the playoffs before losing to Phoenix in six games in the first round. "Our goal was to win the championship," Davis said after the game. A. And no player was hit harder than Davis, the eight-time All-Star, who played just his 39th game of the season on Tuesday after playing just 36 regular-season games last season. Davis has never played 82 games in a year in his 10 pro seasons and has only played over 70 games twice. As for James, the injury virus hit him for the second year in a row. He only played 45 games last season and so far this season he's up to 56. He's missed five of the Lakers' last seven games, including Tuesday, and chances are he could finish it for the season if Considering L. Still is throwing the Lakers' health woes out the window, future Hall of Famer forward Carmelo Anthony said after the game, "There's no apology to be had. Back to James, he's had a remarkable year. "The Chosen One" is currently averaging 30.3 points (second most of his career), 8.2 rebounds (fourth most of his career), and 6.2 assists while shooting 52.4% from the field. A lot of fingers get opened throughout the season show the game of Russell Westbrook during his freshman season in LA Westbrook, a future Hall of Famer, had a checkered season. 20 shots, five rebounds and three assists On Sunday against Denver, Westbrook had 27 points (in 11-for-15 shooting), 10 rebounds and seven assists in just two turnovers. But on Friday against New Orleans, "The Brodie" scored 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting, with four rebounds and five assists, but just a single turnover while fouling. Westbrook's 3.8 turnovers per game is the sixth-highest in the NBA among players who have played at least 60 games. After the game, Westbrook, like Davis, lamented the Lakers' injury concerns. But the plan was also for the Lakers to make the playoffs and fight for a title this season, meaning any plan by LA to combine James, Davis, Westbrook and others under Vogel is likely to face a lengthy offseason scrutiny will - one that will begin much sooner than anyone in Hollywood would have thought.

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Lakers was built to win the championship and won't even make the playoffs

PHOENIX (AP) -- Russell Westbrook couldn't find a way to consistently work with his new teammates, Anthony Davis couldn't stay healthy and a 37-year-old LeBron James couldn't carry a team alone. The Los Angeles Lakers made no secret that they were a team built to win a championship this season. Instead, they don't even make the playoffs. (Author: Gardener)

APLos Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) speaks with umpire Derrick Collins (11) during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 121-110. PHOENIX (AP) -- Russell Westbrook couldn't find a way to consistently work with his new teammates, Anthony Davis couldn't stay healthy and a 37-year-old LeBron James couldn't carry a team alone. The Los Angeles Lakers made no secret that they were a team built to win a championship this season. Instead, they don't even make the playoffs. In a development few would have anticipated six months ago, the Lakers were eliminated from the playoff race Tuesday night after a 121-110 loss to the Phoenix Suns. Westbrook scored 28 points, Davis added 21 and James watched from the bench, nursing a sore ankle that kept him out for a second straight game. Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (39) is fouled by Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 5, 2022 in Phoenix. The Lakers fell to 31-48, 11th in the Western Conference, and can't crack the top 10 to earn a play-in tournament spot. "It's nothing more than we just didn't make it," Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony said. “We cannot apologize; We just didn't make it. "Health has been a constant concern for the Lakers this season, who rarely had Westbrook, Davis and James on the floor at the same time. Davis was only available about half the season as he missed time with knee and foot problems Anthony Davis (3 ) of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots over Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee (00) and forward Mikal Bridges during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Phoenix on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, and forward Mikal Bridges had the pieces but injuries got in the way" , Davis said. "That was the difference in our season." The Lakers and the James-Davis-Westbrook trio could make another run together next season, although it's unclear if they plan to try again. Davis and James are signed, while Westbrook is likely to have his 47-million dollar player option will exercise. "That's the plan, but nothing is promised," said Westbrook, who had to take a lot of criticism of the team, "you have to take it one day at a time and pay for the tickets, you're done." Just a month ago it seemed , like the Lakers have time to find a way to regroup, get healthy, and get into this year's playoffs. James looked 10 years younger at times with his goalscoring, averaging 30.3 points for his highest average since 2008. “I think the world would like to see, we'd like to see what this team could be if we went for full 82 would be healthy," Davis said. Westbrook played hard Tuesday night, plowing through the Suns' defense and past in a desperate attempt to make a positive difference. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he was "extremely disappointed" that the season is ending just before the postseason. The Lakers have lost seven straight games and are now facing three more without a playoff Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James speaks with Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Phoenix on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Vogel led the Lakers to a championship in the 2020 playoffs were played d in the Florida bubble." I can say it wasn't a lack of effort," said the coach. We just fell short in a disjointed season."

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Lakers out of the playoff race

A season that began with a championship promise for the Lakers ended in failure to qualify for the play-in tournament. A loss to the Suns on Tuesday coupled with a Spurs win officially eliminated Los Angeles from playoff contention. (Author: Gardener)

PHOENIX -- A season that began with promises of a championship for the Los Angeles Lakers ended with the pain of not even qualifying for the play-in tournament. Tuesday's 121-110 loss to the Phoenix Suns -- coupled with a 116-97 win by the San Antonio Spurs over the Denver Nuggets -- officially eliminated LA from play-in contention with three games remaining in the regular season . "Extremely disappointed," said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. Disappointed for the Buss family who gave us all this opportunity and we want to do our part in the success of Laker basketball and we failed the Suns' Devin Booker (32 points in 12-on-22 shooting) and Jae Crowder let their opponent's bench hear it and rejoiced at the chance to bury the Lakers after Anthony Davis last month suggested Phoenix win the 2021 playoffs L. Ultimately, it was just another tough night for the Lakers in one season that her fans would be just as quick to forget. "We just didn't make it," said Carmelo Anthony. Injuries sabotaged the season, with LA's new-look at the Big Three of LeBron James, Davis and Russell Westbrook together only play 21 games together until Tuesday. The Lakers went 11-10 in those games - hardly dominant, but certainly not basement dwellers either. Injuries played a role again Tuesday when James sits for the fou rth time in the last five games due to left ankle pain. It was his 23rd missed game of the season. James on the visitor's bench at the Footprint Center in street clothes was joined by Kendrick Nunn, who missed his 79th game of the season with a bruised right knee bone but, oddly enough, was still not easily ruled out for the season by the Lakers. Even Davis, who was back on the court in his third game after a six-week absence with a right metatarsal sprain, also struggled with plantar fascia in his right foot, which has plagued him since his return, according to Vogel. A. sometime this season. And it left Vogel with no choice but to constantly tinker with the players at his disposal as he tried 39 different starting lineups through Tuesday -- the second-most in the league behind the Brooklyn Nets. “We had more starting line-ups than wins this year,” Davis said matter-of-factly. Westbrook, whose team-high 28 points against the Suns was marred by six turnovers, was asked if he would like a chance at a repeat next season and end the final year of his contract with the Lakers. But nothing is promised," Westbrook said. “Yeah, we want to see what that looks like, what that means over the course of an 82-game season. Davis was still speechless when he found out how the Lakers missed the opportunity. "Our goal was to win the championship," he said after 21 points and 13 rebounds. And that was the difference in the season. I think even though we lost games where we were all down - me, Bron, Russ - I think we're three great players but we would have figured it out if we played more minutes together. But we couldn't, which makes it difficult to contend for a championship when your top three players haven't spent enough minutes together." A team picked by BetMGM Sportsbook to win 52.5 games last season a top favorite - along with Brooklyn - to win it all was eliminated from play-in tournament competition by losing his seventh straight game and taking his record to 31-48, while San Antonio won for the seventh time in the last eight games to guarantee at least the 10th play-in. The New Orleans Pelicans, needing either a win or loss to the Lakers Tuesday night, beat the Sacramento Kings 123-109 to earn a spot in Los Angeles, meanwhile, hasn't won a straight game since beating Sacramento and Atlanta at home in early January.When the Lakers and Suns tipped Tuesday night, the Spurs held a Si even-point lead over Denver late in the third quarter, putting o half from L. The Lakers clung to a 42-39 lead over the Suns midway through the second quarter as San Antonio put the finishing touches on their win. The loss unofficially ushers in an offseason that has been fraught with question marks for the Lakers. Can the Lakers find a trading partner for Westbrook and cut their losses? In the last year of his contract, will James sign a contract extension to keep him in LA beyond his 20th season in the league? Always conscious of the messaging, James showed his alignment with the franchise through his attire on Tuesday. No one from the 2021-22 Lakers made the cut.

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Was Lakers' investment in LeBron James and Anthony Davis a bust after missing the playoffs again?

After acquiring LeBron James and then Anthony Davis, the Lakers had multiple titles in their sights. Instead, they missed the playoffs twice in the LeBron era. (Author: Gardener)

LeBron JamesThe Los Angeles Lakers were at their best going into the season - on paper and according to the odds makers, they were among the favorites to win the NBA title. When the games started, the Lakers were average, and by the end of the week of the season they weren't very good at all -- a $150 million roster with big names and nothing to show for it. The Lakers exited the postseason Tuesday with a 121-110 loss to the Phoenix Suns, a fitting and disappointing conclusion to the 2021-22 season. From NFL games to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day. A confluence of damaging factors draining into a sea of ​​trouble: injuries; poor rostering, including the trade for Russell Westbrook; inability to upgrade roster before February close; a strong and improving Western Conference. The Lakers will end with a losing season and be under-.500 for the seventh time in nine seasons. Through that run, the Lakers had four coaches, and there could be a fifth if they decide to step away from Frank Vogel, who led the 2020 franchise to a title. Despite their star-lacing, the Lakers did not make the playoff list with Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony. That championship was important, tying the Lakers with Boston for the most titles (17) in NBA history. There are teams that would have loved to have had a title in the past four seasons, including teams that have never won a title or haven't won one in five decades. When they signed LeBron James four years ago and acquired Anthony Davis three years ago, they were expected to be in contention for multiple championships. They missed the playoffs in James' freshman season, won an Orlando Bubble title in his second, lost in the first round last season and missed the 2021-22 postseason again. Regardless of how this is presented from the Lakers perspective, more has been expected over the past four seasons. Davis has missed 38 games, James 21, Kendrick Nunn basically the whole season, Talen Horton-Tucker 18 and Trevor Ariza 30. A healthy Davis and James certainly make the Lakers a playoff team but aren't sure if they will thereby becoming a title contender. Davis has played in just half of Los Angeles' games this season and last, and James has missed about a third of games possible over the past two seasons. If this continues to be an issue, roster changes will not be enough. The Lakers need a healthy James and Davis to compete in the west. And if James and Davis are healthy, they need a better squad. Unlucky and ill-advised, Westbrook's trade was a gamble that was lost. Westbrook was not having his best season and struggled to find a role that would allow him to be successful. His shooting ratings and turnover rate were similar to other seasons, and he couldn't be expected to match his hits, rebounds and assists on a team with James and Davis. The Lakers missed the presence of guard Alex Caruso (4) and forward Kyle Kuzma (0), who were traded in the offseason. In the 21 games that James, Davis and Westbrook played together, the Lakers were only 11-10. Westbrook was not a good fit. The Lakers needed more players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Alex Caruso -- the very players they either traded for Westbrook or let run free. After acquiring Westbrook, the Lakers didn't have the funds to sign the kind of players who would offer the skill and depth needed to win in the West. The Lakers weren't all that good early on and only had a winning record a handful of times during the season - from 6-5 to 8-6; 14-13 to 16-13 to 16-15; 20-19 to 21-19 to 21-20. From Jan. 22-22 on Jan. 17, the Lakers were never back at .500, going 9-26 after Tuesday's loss to the Suns. Only three teams had worse win ratios, and the Lakers were unable to to make a significant move ahead of the February trading deadline. Even on the All-Star break, Los Angeles was ninth at 27-31 - in position to reach seventh place, plus 2½ games ahead of Portland and 4½ ahead of New Orleans and San Antonio. When the Lakers had to win games in late February, March and April, they went 4-17. Only Portland had a worse win rate, with San Antonio and New Orleans moving into play-in-game competition. The Lakers just weren't good enough - 23rd offensively and defensively. Malik Monk, perhaps the Lakers' best free-agent signing of 2021, wasn't deep enough, and his performance this season likely landed him a better offseason deal with another team. What about next season? What about next season? With limited roster flexibility, it's not uncommon to try a new voice. If the Lakers pick is 1-10, it goes to New Orleans, a byproduct of the 2019 trade that sent Davis to the Lakers and Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart to the Pelicans. The Lakers have no room for salary caps as long as Westbrook declines player options on the $47 million he has due in 2022-23. Between James, Westbrook and Davis, they gobble up $129.45 million next season, which is above the $122 million projected per-team salary cap. Russell Westbrook (0) has received a lot of criticism for his fit with the Lakers this season. You'll have to build around the edges with the taxpayer middle-class exception (expected to be $6.4 million for the season) and the veteran minimum ($953,000 to $2.72 million). Their margin for error is small and there is competition from better teams to sign the same players. If you're a player looking for a title and ready to sign at a discount, would you rather sign with Phoenix or the Lakers? A trade for Westbrook is not out of the question. Less than a year ago, the Wizards nailed it and found a team eager to do something. That same desperation is hard to imagine this offseason, especially at $47 million for 2022-23. The Lakers could take the extreme option and try to trade Davis. That seems unlikely considering James' relationship with Davis and James and Davis are being represented by the same agent, Klutch Sports' Rich Paul. Any team with James and Davis, even in a deep Western Conference, offers a solid starting point that could get even better next season. But Pelinka — if Lakers owner Jeanie Buss decides to keep him — will have to find quick fixes in a scenario where quick fixes seem unrealistic. There's another wrinkle in the Lakers' front-office machinations, and that's the influence of former Lakers forward Kurt Rambis, who has a nebulous title: Director, Basketball Affairs. Her influence, especially Kurt's, shouldn't be underestimated when it comes to, uh, basketball matters. The Lakers drifted in the wake of Phil Jackson's departure and amid Kobe Bryant's final seasons. They rediscovered the magic with James and Davis in 2020, but that seems to be the exception to Lakers ball's last decade. This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Was Lakers' investment in LeBron James and Anthony Davis a bust after yet another playoff miss?

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Pep Guardiola keeps it easy for Man City; Liverpool overwhelms Benfica

What to look out for in this week's big European games (Author: Gardener)

Pep GuardiolaFive games lie between the Champions League quarter-finalists and continental glory. Here's what to watch for in this week's Paramount+ quarter-final first legs: Manchester City's business end of the season is upon us. Even the Champions League seems to be on an unstoppable path which will see Pep Guardiola take on Jurgen Klopp in Paris in May. Provided, of course, they navigate past Atletico Madrid and a semi-finalist. "It's game by game because now every game is a final," said the Germany midfielder after scoring in City's 2-0 win over Burnley on Saturday. “We all play football for these kinds of games and we've had it over the past few years and every single year that we've gotten into that period where we know every game is a big one. The next two or three weeks are very crucial, all the games are crucial now, to be honest." Guardiola doesn't need to say twice what challenges Atletico faces. After all, the idea that he overcomplicates big duels in the Champions League goes rather harked back to losing to Diego Simeone in the 2016 semifinals when his decision to drop Thomas Muller for the first leg caused much consternation and his side were hit by a counter-attacking sucker punch in the second leg. Viewing Guardiola teams as blinking under pressure.Losses to Monaco, Lyon and Chelsea have been portrayed in this light with varying degrees of accuracy.Similarly, the title race is cited as the 14-point lead the defending champions have squandered since the turn of the year, with few realize that this advantage only lasted for one day when City had two games more than Liverpool had denied. For the most part, City have proven to be a team capable of handling the pressure that is placed on them. Immediately after Liverpool's victory over Watford, a trip to Turf Moor seemed an extremely tricky test even for City, but Guardiola's side negotiated in the most agreeable manner, winning the game within the first 25 minutes and keeping Burnley under arms. length for the rest of the fight and conserve their energy for the fights to come. They even played in the city's most classic fashion, sticking to the formula that has proven most effective for Guardiola this season: Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva as free eights in front of Rodri, Phil Foden in the middle while Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling stretched play to the flanks. That might suit them, as does the fact that their boss has very little time to think things over, which he admittedly tends to do. “I always think too much in the Champions League. I love overthinking and coming up with stupid tactics. Maybe he knows he doesn't have time, that right now he can only keep things going like they were in last season's 21-game win Guardiola told CBS Sports that that run "was like a routine machine that Pizzas: pizzas, pizzas, pizzas, pizzas. It's the same: next game, next game.” He himself admitted that the time between winning the league title and the Champions League final gave him time to think. Lockdown era off games. Right now, City just don't have time to stop and think, spend time on the training ground trying to vary the formula. That could only be good news for Guardiola. Far from it This column can rain on any club's save, not the least one who has reached the last eight of the Champions League for the first time in six years, unless Benfica can develop a very different approach from last time I'm In the last 16, Nelson Verissimo's side slowed down the Ajax juggernaut a bit, although the 1-0 win in the second leg still required a great display of erratic shooting from Antony and co. There's no shame in building your own approach the defensive rigidity, but this is a team that has given up more than 16 expected goals (xG) in their eight games since the start of the group stage, which they achieved with a surprisingly rigid defense. They haven't kept an opponent in half a dozen shots in the box since their second matchday - when they defeated the then-go-through rabble for a Barcelona side. Ajax had 11 at the Johan Cruyff Arena and it's safe to assume that if Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino score the kind of unmarked headers Erik ten Hag's side will have, they'll force Odysseas Vlachodimos to make a save could. In all 12 games that Vlachodimos has played in the competition, he has prevented 5.97 goals, according to Opta metrics. Even if Vlachodimos continues his good form, will it be enough to keep Liverpool at bay? 90 minutes the home side can try to stave off the tide, the challenge is that Jurgen Klopp has options this season that he has rarely had before. Whoever starts will have at least two top-class attackers to refresh the squad along with a host of versatile midfielders. There are teams that holding on and playing where you can pinch yourself at the other end might work against. A few weeks ago Villarreal might have been given a chance in this clash but recent form hasn't boded well for those hoping it could offer some hope of a quarter-final upset. Villarreal in particular appear to have faltered quite a bit since beating Juventus, losing to Cadiz and Levante as their attack falters. In fact, even with the famous 3-0 win in Torino, Unai Emery's side have had just nine shots on target in their last four games and appear to be struggling to establish themselves as attacking powers even with Gerard Moreno back in the squad . "Against Levante we were close to the box but lacked the edge to change the game," he said after the defeat. He would add that the clash against Bayern will be different, undeniably, as Villarreal will certainly not dominate possession against the German champions like they did against a relatively weak Spanish opponent. Go back to early March and it would be easier overall to find a reason why Villarreal could win this game. Julian Nagelsmann's willingness to play with a back three and no real full-backs provided the kind of opportunities that could be seized on the break by a Yeremi Pino or Arnaut Danjuma, much like Red Bull Salzburg did in the first leg of the round of 16. Fast switching processes looked as if they could unsettle Bayern; They still could, although it's hard to imagine Emery's side being so assertive in the first leg of a Champions League game. The reality, however, is that the Bundesliga leaders have tightened at the back without losing any of their clout at the other end of the field. They may not be in their best form, but against a struggling opponent they could quickly take control of this duel. In contrast to the game, this most closely resembled the 5-2 loss to West Brom last season. Thomas Tuchel couldn't point to some flying freak shots and an xG record that told a different story than the result. The Blues were struck and consistently nullified on the counterattack as Christian Eriksen and his companions shredded the space behind Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso. In fact, one would assume that a side with fringe players like Alonso, Timo Werner and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were half-eyed about Madrid's visit to Stamford Bridge, although Tuchel might claim the opposite. With Reece James coming off the bench with 35 minutes, it seems extremely plausible that he will change both system and personnel and return to the three-man defence, with one of Andreas Christensen or the superb Trevoh Chalobah joining the squad . This system is nothing if it isn't effective in crushing opponents on the European stage. Since Tuchel took the helm, only two sides have recorded more than a no-penalty xG against the Blues in a European game: Zenit Saint Petersburg in a crazy final group game before Christmas and a side from Porto who were under real pressure for the last five minutes in the quarter-finals -First leg of the season. The past year and a bit suggest that when Chelsea wobble defensively, their manager makes the kind of tiny changes that clean things up at the back. Tuchel is not the only manager who has to fear an open game. Carlo Ancelotti doesn't need a reminder of what Barcelona did to his side in the second half of El Clasico. Or what Paris Saint-Germain might have done better in the second leg of the round of 16. Or indeed what N'Golo Kante did in last year's outdoor semifinals. Even if the Blues decide to take a more cautious approach in the first leg, the front three of Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz, against whom Kante puts the ball to them, need to be tempered, especially when James is also anywhere near his best. If you click 3-4-3, Chelsea are experts at spreading the field wide. Real have proven in their biggest games that they don't always have the momentum in midfield to close the gaps when you start drawing them wide. So don't be surprised if Ancelotti opts to simply pack up his defence, not least because it was pretty much lost in the shame of the result that up until Kylian Mbappe's brilliant moment Madrid had done their job (albeit with a helpful one). poor penalty by Lionel Messi). . They know what Chelsea can do to them in the open field. Your hosts tend to tighten things up in this competition. Don't expect goals or even shots galore.

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Chelsea vs Real Madrid odds, tips and predictions

Analysis of Chelsea vs Real Madrid odds and odds on Wednesday, with Champions League tips and predictions. (Author: Gardener)

Real MadridChelsea host Real Madrid for the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. Real Madrid odds and lines and make our best Champions League bets, tips and predictions. They made it to that point in the Champions League after beating Lyon 4-1 in the round of 16 first leg. Chelsea are expected to be led by M Mason Mount and F Kai Havertz in the attacking half. Having given up just 23 goals in 29 EPL games, his strength lies in defense despite being without D Ben Chilwell. Real Madrid are led by F. Karim Benzema, who leads La Liga as top scorer. Benzema has scored 24 goals in 26 games this season while Real are at the top of La Liga. Real defeated one of the favorites, PSG, in the round of 16, losing 1-0 in the first leg and winning 3-1 in the second with all 3 goals by Benzema. Odds provided by Tipico Sportsbook; For a full list, visit the USA TODAY Sports Scores and Sports Betting Hub. Chelsea +111 (bet $100 to win $111) | Real Madrid +260 (bet $100 to win $260) | Tie +235 (Bet $100 to win $235) These two teams are as close as it gets and both have strength on defense. Chelsea have 5 draws in 14 home games (7 wins and 2 losses). That will cripple his attack and Chelsea could struggle against Real's strong defence. Real lost 1-0 away against PSG. It came back and won at home but it's not necessarily in elite form after losing 4-0 to Barcelona on March 20. Considering each team's form, I expect a close fight resulting in a draw. Obviously Chelsea and Real did well in the group stage as both are still playing. However, in the face of quality competition, Real are outnumbered 3-1 after playing Inter twice in the group stage and PSG twice in the first round. Chelsea is 4-4 O/U in the Champions League. Chelsea don't have an overly powerful attack without Lukaku and their defense is among the best in the EPL. Bet online legally with a trusted partner: Tipico Sportsbook, the Official Sportsbook Partner of Sportsbook Wire in CO, NJ and soon IA. If you're looking for more sports betting recommendations and tips, access all of our content on SportsbookWire.com and BetFTW. Please gamble responsibly. Follow @SportsbookWire on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Gannett may earn revenue from Tipico for viewer recommendations on betting services. General terms and conditions see Tipico.com. gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ), 1-800-522-4700 (CO), 1-800-BETS-OFF (IA).

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