Summer overhaul imminent at Lakers

Milwaukee Bucks centre Brook Lopez shooting over Los Angeles Lakers guard Reggie Bullock during their 115-101 NBA win on Tuesday. The Bucks have already clinched a play-off spot while the Lakers are set to miss out.
Milwaukee Bucks centre Brook Lopez shooting over Los Angeles Lakers guard Reggie Bullock during their 115-101 NBA win on Tuesday. The Bucks have already clinched a play-off spot while the Lakers are set to miss out.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Set to miss the play-offs for 6th straight year, team ready to make coaching, player changes

MILWAUKEE • Early in the second quarter, the basketball found a perch it did not want to leave.

It sat stuck above the backboard of the Milwaukee Bucks' basket until their centre, Brook Lopez, used a mop to poke the ball loose.

He then bowed to the home crowd, turned for an encore before retreating to the bench giggling.

Lopez, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, has had a lot to smile about lately.

His team have the best record in the National Basketball Association (53-18) and even without their best player on Tuesday night, they handily beat the Lakers 115-101.

Giannis Antetokounmpo missed the game because of an ankle sprain, while Lakers star LeBron James sat out owing to a sore groin.

After the end of a five-game road trip, on which the Lakers went 1-4, coach Luke Walton pinned yet another listless team display on a short-handed roster - they were also missing Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Tyson Chandler and Lance Stephenson - insisting it was "easier to just give in at the end".

He added: "You know it's been long and we've got a lot of bodies down."

According to website FiveThirtyEight, the Lakers (31-40) now have less than a 1 per cent chance of making the post-season, with Walton's players 101/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers in the eighth and final play-off spot in the Western Conference.

As the season draws to a close - there are only 11 games left - the Lakers have been watching James' minutes and working to limit his playing time whenever possible.

  • 10½

  • Games the Los Angeles Lakers trail their city rivals the Clippers, who occupy the final West play-off spot.

However, they looked lost at the Fiserv Forum without the All-Star forward as the Bucks swept the two-game series in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1980-82.

With the team nailed on to miss the play-offs for the sixth straight year, the longest drought in their 71-year history, all that remains for Los Angeles fans will be to wait for the summer, where sweeping changes to the coaching staff and personnel are expected.

Walton is widely thought to be on borrowed time, and speculation had been brewing that Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who enjoys a close friendship with Magic Johnson, the Lakers' president of basketball operations, would replace him in the off-season.

However, the 57-year-old Rivers, who masterminded the Boston Celtics' 2008 NBA championship win, quashed the rumours.

Speaking after the Clippers' 115-109 victory over the Indiana Pacers, he told Yahoo Sports: "Early in this year, we (Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and I) both decided to make it a longer deal.

"My job is not done here."

DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2019, with the headline 'Summer overhaul imminent at Lakers'. Print Edition | Subscribe