The 2021 All-Star break is heading for the rear-view window, as the Los Angeles Lakers are set to commence their portion of the second-half schedule beginning Friday night.
The All-Star weekend supplied the Lakers a vital time to take time off and refuel for a challenging conclusion to the regular season. Just before the break, Los Angeles’s energy meter looked depleted, clearly needing All-Star weekend to approach fast.
Now that the Lakers are taking the hardwood again, sufficient rest will be even more difficult to come by. L.A.’s schedule sees them having a 14-game stretch where 11 of the games are on the road, and there are a plethora of back-to-backs scheduled, too, mostly towards the latter half.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel explained how this year’s schedule post-All-Star break is different than previous seasons.
“It’s a unique situation,” Vogel said. “It definitely is a different type of situation than a normal All-Star break. A normal All-Star break you are probably about three-quarters of the way through the season and you are in a stretch run. We’re halfway there. We’re one game away from exactly that. The midpoint of the season. We’ve played 37, we have 35 left. We still have a lot of basketball to be played.”
Vogel added what his primary concerns are entering the next 35 games and how he’ll try to stabilize the players.
“My biggest concern right now is not having days off with one practice going into this stretch. We’ll be mindful of trying to build our guy’s legs back up, playing games to win without overdoing it with their bodies and putting them at risk to injury. It’s a very challenging balance, but that’s my biggest concern right now is dealing with these nine days off.”
Finding that balance will be key for Vogel. With most games happening a day after the previous one, opportunities to practice and watch game film are trimmed.
The Lakers also want to defend their recent championship victory, and with many talented teams in both conferences vying for the throne, L.A. must play at their best — which they haven’t done oftentimes this season — to have a chance.
Vogel calls James ‘middle linebacker’ of Lakers defense
Vogel can find comfort in the fact that the Lakers clutch the league’s best defensive rating of 106.1. In a league that cherishes scoring and shooting, defense can usually become the forgotten factor for championship-caliber teams.
Rest concerns and all, having the league’s top defense is a huge boost for the Lakers, and at the middle of it all is star LeBron James, literally, as Vogel explained.
“I think he’s always trying to fly around,” Vogel said. “That’s why we’re the No. 1 defensive team in the league. Him being back there as the middle linebacker both calling things out and being really active on the backside.
“The last two opponents we’ve had a lot more double teams, which activates our backside. I think it is a combination of the scheme that we’re in, plus his mindset to pick things up on that end and shift a little offensively with what he’s doing to try to help our team get going. I think it has been highly productive on both sides of the ball.”
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