The LA Lakers went from the high of winning the 2020 Championships to crashing out of the playoffs at the first stage. The team decided to completely overhaul the squad ahead of the new season, with only LeBron James, Anthony Davis. Up and coming guard Talen Horton-Tucker was the only free signing from the previous season to be signed, on a $30.78 million contract.
Everyone else departed, including the likes of Kostas Antetokounmpo, Alex Caruso, and Dennis Schroeder. In exchange, the Lakers brought in Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Malik Monk, Rajon Rondo, Austin Reaves, Sekou Doumbouya, and Jay Huff.
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Lakers created a heavy team
It was a pretty interesting strategy the Lakers’ deployed in their signings, as most of those guys are all 35 or older with limited ability and non-guaranteed regular playing time. At the same time, Russell Westbrook was signed in exchange for three players plus the Lakers’ Number 22 draft pick slot. It seems the strategy was to sign a new star in Westbrook to complement LeBron and Davis and then sign a roster of decent players for squad depth. In doing so, they’ve also created a rather top-heavy team, with Davis, LeBron, and Westbrook earning over $120 million while 9 of the other 11 players are all on minimum salary contracts.
In the first game of the new season forever, all this overhauling didn’t exactly equate to an immediate dream team that was perhaps the intention. In their defense, the Lakers couldn’t have picked a tougher opponent for their still gelling squad than a matchup against Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors.
The season started well
In what was a thrilling season opener between two close rivals, the Lakers started brightly and gained a 10 point lead in the first quarter, and even led for the first three quarters. The Lakers were dropping points towards the end of the opening three quarters though, and the Warriors spurred a last gasp drive for the win and gained enough ground to ultimately win in the last quarter by 121 points to 114.
LeBron James scored 34 points and 11 rebounds, while Anthony Davis contributed an almost equal 33 points and 11 rebounds. New star Westbrook was only able to score 4 from 13 for a total of 8 points in an underwhelming season debut. Apart from David and LeBron, no other Lakers players scored double figures. Proof perhaps, that the team still needs time to combine properly and become a unit.
LA Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel said as much in his post-match interview, highlighting that it’s still a team that’s new to each other, especially Westbrook who is the new kid and would find it hard to transition from being the focal point of the team to learning how to bounce plays off guys like LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The Lakers were good for much of the game and carried an 84 to 74 point lead at the end of the third quarter but a late rally from Steph Curry who hit 3 free throws at the end of the third quarter and then hit a three-pointer midway through the last quarter when the Warriors had taken the lead. Curry finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists for his first triple-double of the season. Jordan Poole was instrumental in the fourth-quarter turnaround by the Warriors and finished with 20 points. Nemanja Bjelica contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Damion Lee also got 15 points.
The Warriors put in a more combined effort, and that’s what gave them the win over the Lakers. When only 2 players on a team can get double digits, and 4 players on the opposing team make 4 players with double figures, the first team is going to be hard-pressed to win.
Lakers need to step up to qualify
It’s still early days in the season, and as previously mentioned, the Lakers have the most overhauled team in the league. Add to that the fact that they didn’t win any of their preseason games, it’s obvious that they’ll still need a little time to click. Not too much time or they’d be too far out of the running to qualify for the playoffs later in the season.
Any team that has LeBron James in its roster will always be tagged a serious contender, and Anthony Davis had proved to be a worthy partner for King James. The Lakers have done well in the past and sometimes all they need is two superstars to get them to where they should be. Add in star boy Russell Westbrook, who will click, and a roster of experienced veterans to the list, and it is safe to say that it’s quite early to write off the Lakers just yet.
The next game for the Lakers is also at home, this time against the Phoenix Suns, who coincidentally were the ones to knock out the Lakers fitting last season’s playoffs. It’s no exaggeration that the Lakers team the Suns will be having is going to be quite different from the one they played in May. Coach Frank Vogel may well be counting on that fact.
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