At 8-9 on the season, the Los Angeles Lakers are still far from where they want to be as a ball club.
As Westbrook continues to struggle to fit in, the rest of the team is failing to re-discover the defensive intensity that helped them win the title almost two years ago.
Now that LeBron James is back in the lineup, there is renewed hope in the Lakeshow, although it remains to be seen if even his presence will be enough to elevate the Purple and Gold into true title contenders.
In fact, if James does find a way to lead his team to a title this season, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith may even be willing to concede the GOAT debate once and for all.
“Can I give you some news?” Smith said. “If LeBron James wins the title this year, I will actually entertain discussion about him being in the G.O.A.T. conversation.”
The challenge facing Bron this season may be the toughest of his entire career, and it's not hard to see why him winning another title under these circumstances would dramatically bolster his G.O.A.T. claim.
Yes, Ladies & Gentlemen, I will entertain this if @KingJames wins it all this season. But damnit, that ain’t happening!
4 titles are impressive enough, but Michael Jordan won six in a decade of dominance for Chicago, and that fact has been one of the biggest things holding LeBron back from the GOAT status. He'll have to win at least one more if he wants serious consideration by the masses.
Unfortunately for James, the biggest hurdle to accomplishing his mission may not actually have anything to do with the Lakers.
Rather, it's what is happening in San Francisco that could prove to be his undoing.
"Let me say something else," said Stephen A. earlier this week. "I think LeBron has won his last title. I think it's over. It's not LeBron's fault. LeBron's gonna be LeBron, he's gonna come back and do what hes going to do. Russell Westbrook is a member of the Lakers... and I'm telling you they ain't winning no chip.
I think the Lakers are big time. I think the Lakers can beat anyone but the Warriors. I think the Warriors are going to take them out."
Needless to say, there are many doubts about how far L.A. can get moving forward.
Whether due to age, roster construction, or the overwhelming power of their enemies, the Lakers have a tough road ahead of them, and they're going to have to make some big changes if they want to come out on top.