The Los Angeles Lakers have gone through a major overhaul since the offseason, building an almost entirely new roster around their two All-Stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Compared to the 2020-21 group, L.A. brought in 13 new players — including Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley, who played for the team the year before. The Lakers knew it would take time for the team to develop the necessary chemistry and understanding of each other’s game, contributing to a slow start to the 2021-22 season.
Head coach Frank Vogel said L.A. inevitably had to try different schemes using the trial-and-error approach, trying to learn from their mistakes along the way.
The biggest issue has been that James has missed around half the season with various ailments. When he recently missed time with an abdominal injury, the Lakers really struggled in his absence.
They’ve seemed to find their way over the last week though, which is important now that James is again missing time after a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test, which was later deemed as a false positive.
Vogel believes they are a more cohesive group now compared to the last time James was out early in the season and he explained why he feels that way.
“Well I just think that as games go by, you have stretches where you new players find success and the answers reveal themselves, or failures quite frankly,” Vogel said.
“Like ‘hey, we’re running too much of this and it’s not working for us.’ But if we put guys in certain situations then they get more comfortable. Or these combinations haven’t been good, so we tweak the combinations some. It’s all part of the evaluation process that we feel really good about with our organization, straight up from the front office down to myself and our coaching staff, just evaluating all these things.”
James missing time has also affected Russell Westbrook’s chemistry with Davis. But Vogel said he likes the progress the Westbrook-Davis duo has made despite a tough beginning.
“It wasn’t great early, but like I said, I feel like we’re different now than we were three weeks ago or whatever, a month ago, whenever that first time that he went out was, in terms of building our cohesiveness and those guys learning each other and us learning the right ways to put those guys in positions to succeed,” Vogel said.
“So hopefully we have more success this time around.”
Davis and Westbrook discuss change in approach with James out
James has been sidelined again, this time due to his positive coronavirus test. The four-time NBA champion could spend up to 10 days away after entering the league’s health and safety protocols.
Davis said that although the Lakers ‘lean on him’ more without James, he and Westbrook need to make L.A. play better as a team as opposed to doing everything on the court.
“I think my job and Russ’ job is not to feel like we have to do it all, but we have to also do enough to help our guys and I think tonight we did enough and also guys stepped up,” he said after the 25-point win over the Sacramento Kings.
However, Westbrook said James’ absence doesn’t change his approach to games.
“It’s the same for me, it doesn’t change,” the Lakers’ point guard said. “My approach stays the same each and every night. I kind of pride myself on being consistent in that, having the same approach, because my team and my teammates need it.”
The good news is that James will be back in action on Friday against the L.A. Clippers though, so hopefully he is able to stay healthy moving forward so they won’t have t o worry about how their mindset changes without him.
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