While the core pieces of head coach Frank Vogel, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and others were still in place, the Los Angeles Lakers made relatively drastic changes to a roster that won the championship last season.
Roster turnover certainly is relatively common across the NBA, but it’s unprecedented when the team making those decisions is coming off of a title. Very rarely does a defending champion move on from five of their role players, but L.A. and their front office felt that complacency would not be the best way to progress the team forward.
This was especially true with the Lakers facing the shortest offseason in American sports history. Vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka ensured the team got younger and more talented to offset some of the fatigue that may come throughout the year.
Because of that — and the short offseason — Vogel didn’t have expectations for the Lakers in the opening weeks of the season. “I honestly had no idea what to expect off of the short offseason, coming in after having won the championship,” he said.
“I really thought there could be a wide range of ways it could play out. I’m happy with where we’re at. Obviously there’s been some games we’ve dropped that we shouldn’t have dropped, there’s some areas we need to continue to get better at, but we’ve shown early on we can be great at.
“Just some discipline things and habits we build with more repetition and time together. But I didn’t really have expectations of what the first month would look like. I was sort of ready for anything.”
Similarly, James had no idea how the Lakers were going to look in the first month of the season, citing five new role players in the rotation and two starters. “I didn’t really put a, ‘How I expected the first month to play out.’ I wanted to just see and live in the moment,” he said.
“I knew it was going to be a little challenging to get back and restart after the super, super duper short layoff, or offseason if you want to call it. And then us adding four new guys to our roster, implementing another guy (Talen Horton-Tucker) into our rotation, I just wanted to kind of see.
“It’s something that we’ve never done before. I’ve had short offseasons, but nothing as short as this one. I just wanted to see how we were going to play and get the new guys acclimated to what we do as a culture, both on and off the floor. I would say we’re doing some good things and we want to just continue to build off of that.”
Through the first month of the season — even with no expectations — the Lakers look about as good as they could have. They are tied with the L.A. Clippers for the best record in the NBA at 13-4 while ranking first in defensive rating, sixth in offensive rating, and first in net rating.
Vogel says Lakers defense must stay focused on all five players
Despite getting a huge win against the Milwaukee Bucks, Vogel had some concerns about the way the Lakers played defensively, especially out on the break.
“We’ve had a couple games in a row in transition, where we’re so focused on Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, that we’re losing guys,” Vogel explained. “That happened a ton tonight. We have to improve with that.
“We still have to make sure we match up to everyone on the floor, in particular not letting guys get behind our defense. Just an area to clean up and hopefully learn from in a win.”
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