The Lakers are coming off an encouraging loss — though a 113-110 loss nonetheless — against the Trailblazers in Portland Thursday night. A game that saw the Lakers battle back from a huge deficit and take the lead, only to have Damian Lillard crush their hopes with a last second game winner. I’ll take this effort, even if the end was pretty damn disappointing. The NBA is tough sledding that way and with a game only a night later in a different city, you either need a short memory, a lot of resolve, or both.
The Lakers lost more than a game to the Blazers on Thursday night, they lost their starting power forward too. Larry Nance Jr. broke his hand when committing a foul on Portland big man Caleb Swannigan.
Correction from the Lakers re: Larry Nance, Jr.: “X-rays were positive for fracture of the 2nd metacarpal – left hand.”
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 3, 2017
In this episode of the Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete and I discuss the Lakers early season identity as a (surprisingly) good defensive team that has had trouble scoring and how that profile is inverse of what everyone thought they would be heading into the season.
In the best team effort of the season, the Lakers routed the Pistons 113-93 to get their 3rd win of the season. The W moves the team to 3-4 on the year, giving them a nice bounce back from consecutive defeats on Friday and Saturday against the Raptors and the Jazz. In a way, this game reminded me of the Toronto game, only the Lakers were able to carry their strong play from the first half into and through the final 24 minutes to close out Detroit.
Pop quiz: Who has the best record in the Central Division? The Cavs, right? No. Then it’s the Bucks, right? Nope. Okay, easier question: Who has the best record in the Eastern Conference? Since it’s not the Cavs, maybe the Wizards? Uh-uh. The Raptors? Nah.
At a 5-2 record, the team with the best record in the Central Division and the Eastern Conference is…the Detroit Pistons. Technically they’re tied with Celtics and the Magic(!) for the conference lead, but…come on, man. I know it’s only been a couple of weeks, but no one saw this coming. Not you, not me, not Miss Cleo and her tarot cards. No one.
This team currently doesn’t have enough shooting. I mentioned Young and Williams being gone, but so is D’Angelo Russell. Those three were all high volume 3 point shooters who were at or (well) above a league average level. They’ve replaced them with Lopez, KCP, and…that’s it.
Kuzma has promise and I’m ecstatic at what he’s shown in the summer and preseason, but it’s disingenuous to predict that it will continue over a full season. Lonzo might project to be a good three point shooter for his career but it remains to be seen if he’s that right now. Randle and Nance have not yet shown expanded range, even if they (or at least Randle) have shown more comfort in taking those shots. Clarkson, unless a leap is made, is not going to be a knock down shooter from distance. Ingram is making strides, but is not there yet.
Playing fast is great and adhering to the analytical approach of layups, FT’s, and 3’s is the way of the new NBA. But the Lakers don’t project to be a team that can make you pay from behind the arc. Teams will go under picks on them. They’ll crowd the paint and shrink the floor from the weakside until shooters make them pay. Again, Lopez will help — and maybe exponentially so because he’s a stretch 5 — but unless Lonzo, KCP, Kuzma, and Ingram all prove to be league average or better from distance generating gravity on the perimeter will be difficult. And without that, the rest of the offense will suffer.
That’s an excerpt from my 2017-18 Lakers season preview. I’m not asking you to call me Nostradarius or anything, but, you know, show me the lie.
Whether or not the Lakers won this game, it would have been their best effort of the season. Their overall competitiveness, their commitment defensively, and how they stayed with the gameplan offensively — all against a really good team, too — to stay connected on the scoreboard over the course of the full game made that so. But the team did win, 102-99, after forcing an overtime period and then simply playing better down the stretch.
A favorite saying of mine, not only in sports but in real life, is crawl-walk-run. Trial and error, failure then success, is the path traveled to get where you want. You cannot skip steps, lest you want to crawl forever. The Lakers are still in the crawling stage, but Wednesday’s game against the Wizards showed glimpses of them starting to know what it takes to walk. Progress was in the air, and more than what the scoreboard said at the end, that is what I take from this contest.
What got them there, though, was a bunch of spirited play both from individual players and as a collective.
Look, if you think these types of Lakers rumors are going away, they’re not. If you want them to go away, I can appreciate that, but also feel bad for your disappointment. So, I figure I can either ignore them, or at least offer it in only small doses. Today, I choose the latter.
Sports Illustrated’s sports media reporter and columnist Richard Deitsch polled seven different national and nba beat reporters asking them where they thought LeBron James would go next summer. Of those seven, five either said they believe or the consensus around the league is that it will be the Lakers and two said he’ll stay with the Cavs.