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Talk, it is, well, said, is cheap.
Just ask the Los Angeles Lakers.
One night after eschewing practice to conduct a team meeting to allow players to express their gripes and grievances with one another, the coaching staff and the organization, in general, the Lakers went out Friday night and played like… the same team.
In another Battle of Los Angeles at Staples Center, the Lakers fell behind by as many as 17 points in the first quarter and were whipped by the Los Angeles Clippers, 121-106. All-Star forward Blake Griffin, making his return after sitting out the previous 14 games because of a sprained knee ligament, lit up the Lakers for 24 points for the Clippers (15-19), who have won six of eight games, with former Laker Lou Williams chipping in with 23 off the bench. Griffin and Williams wore out a path to the free-throw line, combining to convert 24 of 27 (89 percent) on charity tosses.
So, Lakers coach Luke Walton, about that meeting…
“I just don’t think we were ready, for whatever reason, to engage in the fight,” he told reporters after the 15-point loss.
Second-year forward Brandon Ingram expressed hope the team meeting would help to smooth some rough edges among the organization.
“Hopefully, we think about what we said to each other, what we said to the coaches and that the coaches have listened to what we said,” he said. “Hopefully, we can take it into practice, into games and just get better.”
It didn’t come to fruition Friday night as the loss to the Clippers dropped the Lakers to 11-23 on the season, the second-worst mark in the Western Conference, ahead of only Memphis (11-24) and tied for the third-worst winning percentage in the NBA (.324) with Dallas.
Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers with 20 points off the bench, making nine of 16 shots. Ingram and Julius Randle, making his first start of the season, were next in line with 18 points.
Walton said a team struggling at times is nothing unusual through the course of an 82-game season.
“Every team has issues,” he told reporters before Friday night’s game. “You look at the top teams to the bottom, they all have their issues. Part of this job is keeping a pulse on everything and continuing to grow and do things in a certain manner.
“It gets more challenging when you’re on a team that’s losing.”
That was magnified last week when LA lost at Portland by three points on a night Blazers All-Star guard Damian Lillard did not play. Afterward, Walton said he thought players were “pouting.”
The Lakers’ front office constant refrain about wanting to sign a pair of big-name, high-dollar free agents to maximum deals next summer has only served to exacerbate the situation.
So, with four of his starters — Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brook Lopez — out or extremely limited, and with simmering frustrations seemingly about to boil, Walton opted to cancel practice.
“I’m always thinking about how we can get better in the time we have to work,” Walton said. “We weren’t going to get much done on the court that day, anyway. It was just a creative way to grow and get better for that day.
“The amount of questions being asked about having a team meeting are a little blown out of proportion from the fact that we had one. It was just a way for our group to get together.”
Ingram said expecting immediate results after such a gathering was not realistic.
“I don’t think you work through it in one day, but I think we put it out there about how each guy was feeling about how they play on the basketball floor, about how they’re feeling about the business of the organization, how they want to be played or anything of that nature,” he said. “I think they just put it all out there and ultimately, I would hope they felt free after they did.”
It won’t get any easier for the Lakers, either. LA visits the 25-9 Houston Rockets on Monday night.