Before the Los Angeles Lakers begin their quest for a championship, they’ll play in three scrimmage games meant to act as preseason of sorts.
That tips off July 23, when the Lakers take on the Dallas Mavericks. In addition to players getting back into game shape, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel plans to use those games to test rotations with Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo out.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis presumably will be on the court for the Lakers’ first game, but that is not finalized. “I would say it’s unlikely they play all three, but it’s not been decided yet. There’s a chance they do,” Vogel said.
A priority for the Lakers will be to get everyone some game time while preserving the likes of James and Davis. They undoubtedly will log heavy minutes in the playoffs, and too quick of a ramp-up could lead to injury.
Their minutes will obviously increase slowly throughout the scrimmages and the seeding games, but there’s no guarantee that the two stars will play a major role in what are essentially meaningless contests.
Part of the cautious approach to the scrimmages and seeding games comes from the Lakers’ cushion in the standings; they are 5.5 games ahead of the L.A. Clippers for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
However, Vogel won’t even think about the standings when it comes to deciding playing time. “Whether it’s in the bubble or regular season, every time we step on the court we’re playing to win,” he said. “That’s how you succeed in the playoffs, is to have that mentality.
“The standings really don’t mean that much, whether we were competing for a higher seed or trying to lock something in. It really doesn’t weight against being healthy and playing our best basketball going into the playoffs. Those are our top priorities.”
Given the unique circumstances, it would make sense for Vogel to want to give James and Davis as much game action as possible. A bad scenario would be for the playoffs to begin, and those two are rusty because they sat too much during the first set of games.
Whatever the Lakers decide to do for the scrimmages, it seems that their two stars are at the forefront of Vogel’s planning. Beyond that, it’s just about finding a rotation that helps the Lakers win games in the absence of two of their point guards.
Lakers are in ‘Phase 2’ of practicing
Vogel spoke about where the Lakers are at physically in their practicing process, discussing the unusual practice times as well as the varying levels of intensity they’ve approached practices with.
“We’re in what I would call Phase 2,” he explained. “We had three initial practices with an off day, and now four days in a row, culminating in primarily a scrimmage in [Saturday’s] practice.”
“Today was very light. We have to adjust a little bit to the practice times. We went from a 5 o’clock practice to a 12 o’clock practice the next day, then a 9 a.m. practice today. We’re under 24 hours (returning to the court) each of those times.
“Again, trying to just factor in all these things to make sure we’re managing their bodies and the buildup the right way.”
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