The Los Angeles Lakers’ first victory of the season coincided with a notable addition into the team’s playbook: the LeBron James-Russell Westbrook pick-and-roll.
The All-Star duo attempted multiple plays in which Westbrook set the screen for James in the final minutes of Sunday’s 121-188 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. Although not each of them led to points for L.A., it showed a great deal of potential and the ability to take the Lakers’ offense to another level.
“Yeah, it’s just something we’ve been talking about a lot in our meetings and trying to incorporate it into practice,” head coach Frank Vogel said about the James-Westbrook pick-and-roll.
“I think late-game, that’s something that we like when they have an elite guard that’s not going to switch onto LeBron. We can get that situation, we got that one bucket, we also had a miscue where we were double cutting and just turned it over in the paint. But definitely a situation we like.”
However, James pointed out that the Lakers are yet to fully unleash the power of its new-look screen play. “We haven’t put in our full playbook yet,” he said.
“[W]e have a new team so we still are implementing ways where we can be better offensively. So that’s one of them that we haven’t even exploited just yet, we just put it in tonight, that pick-and-roll.”
Considering Westbrook’s playmaking talent, James expects the pick-and-roll to become a serious weapon in the Lakers’ arsenal. That showed on Sunday, particularly as many of the pick-and-roll plays led to Anthony Davis’ involvement.
On one occasion, Davis enjoyed an open look from deep after a kick-back pass from Westbrook. On another, he charged into the paint for a dunk following an acrobatic overhead dime from the 32-year-old guard.
“Russ on the three-on-two, his ability to read the game from that position is up there with any playmakers in our game. And obviously he showed it with what he was able to do, getting up in the air and getting Adams to take a look at him for a quick second, wrap it around to AD for the dunk,” James said.
“So that’s something that’s going to work very well for our ballclub moving forward.”
James thought ‘not again’ when Desmond Bane fell onto his leg in Grizzlies win
James’ well-being is of paramount importance for the Lakers as they are figuring out offensive schemes in the early weeks of the 2021-22 season. Hence, when he twisted his ankle in the win over Memphis, L.A. — and the four-time NBA champion himself — held their breath for a second.
Grizzlies wing Desmond Bane fell onto the Lakers All-Star’s leg in the third quarter, bringing him to the ground. James said the collision brought about an unpleasant flashback, alluding to the ill-famous clash with the Atlanta Hawks’ Solomon Hill last season.
“The first thing I was thinking to myself was ‘not again’ obviously because it was almost kind of similar, but not the same kind of play,” James said. “A guy falling into my leg and there’s nothing you can do about it and I couldn’t get my leg out of there in time.”
James added he expects to suffer from some ankle soreness in the coming days, but he should be ready for the Tuesday game against the San Antonio Spurs.
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