The Los Angeles Lakers are undeniably a different team than the dominant one that took the Western Conference by storm before the four-month hiatus. Despite a strong core in All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, roster adjustments and conditioning issues in the Orlando bubble have impacted their identity and rotations.
But different does not necessarily mean inferior. Markieff Morris and other veteran players signed during the season are stepping up to provide Lakers head coach Vogel with roster depth and add an extra dimension to the team’s offense and defense.
Morris, who was signed by L.A. after agreeing to a buyout with the Detroit Pistons in February, just recorded his best performance with the team against the Sacramento Kings despite a 136-122 loss. In the absence of Kyle Kuzma and Davis, Morris scored 14 points, making four 3-pointers on 80%, and added 5 rebounds in his first start.
Morris’ acclimatization has been disrupted as the NBA suspended the season only after his first eight games with L.A. He then joined the team late in the bubble due to family issues, forcing Vogel to phase him into his rotation carefully to avoid fitness issues.
But the Lakers head coach is confident Morris will be an important player during the team’s title pursuit. “He’s a beast and he’s someone who is going to help us in the playoffs,” Vogel said.
“I think it’s been a slow and steady buildup from the time he joined us [in the bubble]. I feel good about what he can bring to our team in the playoffs.”
Hoping to make the Lakers the most athletic team in the NBA, Vogel thought Morris would provide the much-needed toughness and physicality to the roster when signing the 30-year-old forward.
But as he showed in the loss to Kings, the Kansas product is ready to offer more than just grit. “Whatever is needed of me, I want to give to the team,” Morris previously said.
“Coach always talked about me being tough, but I’m a little more than just tough. Whatever is required of me.”
Vogel satisfied with playoff prep
The Lakers have come a long way since the beginning of the NBA restart, improving their offense which for the majority of the seeding games was the worst in the Orlando bubble. But Vogel believes the Lakers still have room for improvement, primarily on the defensive side which took a hit while finding an offensive rhythm.
However, he thinks that considering the circumstances, the team has made the most out of the three scrimmages and eight seeding games preceding the playoffs.
“I always feel like there’s more we can get accomplished and improve upon,” Vogel said, “but with the circumstances of the pandemic and restarting in a bubble and all those types of things, I think this was an appropriate amount of games to get ready.”
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