The Los Angeles Lakers are finally back in action and while their 2019-20 NBA season debut game against the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t go the way they wanted, fans still learned a lot about them moving forward. It wasn’t an easy pill to swallow, but most of the issues that fans saw are fixable.
For example, one of the things that certainly stood out in this game was the lack of a wing defender with size. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is 6’5″ on a good day, was tasked with defending Kawhi Leonard way more often than he should. Ideally, he shouldn’t be defending him at all. In 27 minutes, Caldwell-Pope scored zero points while struggling to bother Leonard on the other end, making it a wasted rotation.
The challenge for head coach Frank Vogel is his options on the wing are incredibly limited, especially with Kyle Kuzma sidelined.
LeBron James has to conserve some energy for the offensive end while Danny Green (who was tremendous) probably should have just mirror Leonard’s minutes, but relying on him alone to stop the best wings in the league is asking too much. Perhaps the Memphis Grizzlies will eventually waive Andre Iguodala or the perimeter defense Kuzma showcased with Team USA will resurface once he’s fully healthy but for now, Vogel will have to figure out a way to scheme around the team’s lack of wing defenders.
James and Davis, while certainly disappointed that they couldn’t get the win, looked good for stretches. James had some costly turnovers and at times looked his age, but better days are ahead for him. Meanwhile, Davis was a monster in the post and bullied his way to 14 free throws. His efficiency wasn’t great, hitting just 8-of-21 shots and 9-of-14 at the line, but the hope is that his shot will eventually start falling.
Finally, disappointing performances were turned in by JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, who should have given the Lakers a major advantage in the paint. Instead, the small Clippers managed to win the battle of the boards. The most important thing for the Lakers heading into the game was to capitalize on their size advantage, so to actually lose that battle was a mortal blow.
Still, chemistry isn’t developed overnight and there were enough good things to build upon for fans to have optimism for the team’s next game against the Utah Jazz.