The Lakers hadn’t been in this position since Oct. 20, the last time their basketball team was one win away from evening their record at .500.
That was the second game of the regular season.
A lot has changed since then.
In that loss to the Clippers, Russell Westbrook missed all 11 of his shots, Patrick Beverley made only one in seven tries and four of the five reserves who logged minutes are no longer on the roster.
Yet after the Lakers turned over their roster and with the energy within the locker room flipped completely around one thing hasn’t changed.
The Lakers still aren’t at .500.
After winning three consecutive games, the Lakers missed out on a chance Sunday to move into a tie for sixth place in the West, losing to the New York Knicks 112-108.
D’Angelo Russell, whose huge fourth quarter closed out the Toronto Raptors on Friday, stayed hot Sunday making 13 of 19 shots for a season-high 33 points, but he was outdueled by former teammate Julius Randle.
Randle scored 33 on 11-of-24 shooting from the field while making eight of 11 from the free-throw line, his aggression setting the tone for the Knicks, who were without point guard Jalen Brunson.
And in the fourth quarter, R.J. Barrett’s repeated drives to the basket gave the Lakers problems, his layup with 2:34 left putting the Knicks up by 10 points. Barrett finished with 30 points.
The Lakers came back to make it a one-possession game in the final 20 seconds, but the team couldn’t get to a Knicks player to foul on their final possession, letting 14 seconds rip off the clock.
Another former Laker, Josh Hart, made both free throws to ice the game.
Anthony Davis scored only 17 points, but he grabbed 16 rebounds.
LeBron James returned to the Lakers bench after missing the last two games while excused for medical reasons. He was no longer wearing the protective walking boot on his injured right foot.
“Everything is going according to plan,” Ham said of James’ recovery.
Earlier this week, James posted a video from an unknown remote location, joking about the paparazzi following him as a wild animal roamed past.
“I’ve lived through this with [Kobe Bryant] and Giannis (Antetokounmpo), these guys have a variety of ways, when you’re at that level, you have a variety of ways you can treat different injuries,” Ham said. “And it’s also good for him to unplug a little bit. Not be detached necessarily, but just mentally get a little bit of a calming to everything that’s transpired over the year. … It’s been a lot.
“So it’s not just about him getting healthy, it’s about him being in a good place mentally and spiritually so we get the best version of him when he returns.”