Losing can amplify a team's problems, and the Lakers have done a lot of it lately.
So on Thursday, with frustrations mounting among the players, the Lakers held a team meeting in lieu of practice to allow players to air their grievances with each other, with the coaching staff and with 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," forward
Friday night's game showed that their product on the court still needs work. The Lakers lost to the
Griffin and former Laker Lou Williams each scored 24 points. The two players combined to make 24 of 27 free throws.
The Lakers were led by Jordan Clarkson, who scored 20 points on nine-of-16 shooting.
The Lakers have lost eight of their last nine games. Their only win in that span came against the
But the losses continued after that against teams they should have beaten.
"Every team has issues," Walton said. "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."
What's frustrated players on this team is a combination of on- and off-court issues. Playing time has frustrated some players. They've also been hearing for months that their franchise's future might not include many of them, and some players have wondered if that, rather than a quest for wins and losses, is dictating some of the Lakers' rotations.
Those frustrations came to light last week when the Lakers lost by three points to the
Bogut specifically cited the Lakers' salary cap plans as part of what frustrated his teammates. The team's front office has made clear that they want to sign two free agents to maximum contracts this summer, and to do so they will have to move some of their current players.
On Thursday, the Lakers faced a practice day in which four of their starters would have been unavailable or significantly limited – Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez,
"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 f 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."
Kuzma called it a "heart-to-heart."
Each player spoke and got a chance to air their grievances. Some of the veterans tried to use their own experiences to offer advice to their younger teammates about how to weather uncertainty about their futures.
"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," Lakers forward Brandon Ingram said. "I think they just put it all out there and ultimately I would hope they felt free after they did."
Said Kuzma: "We're just trying to get back on the same page."
Walton harkened back to his playing days when cautioning that meetings like the one the Lakers had Thursday are not limited to losing teams. He remembered frustrations often mounting even on the teams he played for that won championships.
"I thought about it actually," Walton said. "I did not go that route, but it did cross my mind."
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
10:10 p.m.: This article has been updated with more details, including from the game against the Clippers.