Even though the Los Angeles Lakers are yet to win a game during the 2021 preseason, the lead-up to the fast-approaching Oct. 19 tip-off hasn’t been all doom and gloom. Kent Bazemore’s early form deserves a spot among the few positive trends that emerged during the team’s preparation for the NBA 2021-22 campaign.
Somewhat out of the blue, Bazemore reportedly decided to return to L.A. — he played in 23 games for the Lakers in 2014 — despite receiving more lucrative contract offers in the offseason. What’s more, the 32-year-old veteran said he signed with the Lakers knowing he would need to earn his spot in head coach Frank Vogel’s rotation despite being one of the few 3-and-D wingmen on the roster.
It appears that Bazemore fully embraced the challenge. He started for L.A. in three of the four preseason games so far, eliciting high praise for his contribution on the defensive end from Vogel following the 117-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 6.
“I really think Baze has separated himself some,” Vogel said last week.
The Lakers coach kept the compliments rolling after L.A. fell to Phoenix again last Sunday. “He was a star tonight,” Vogel said following the game.
“He was exceptional. Really on both sides of the ball, but particularly on the defensive end. Four steals. Just numerous plays where he’s in the passing lane. Working to contain, pressuring his own man.”
Bazemore ended the 123-94 loss with eight points, three rebounds, two assists, and four steals. His all-around performance left Vogel delighted despite the Lakers extending the losing streak that night.
“[Bazemore] really excelled on the defensive end and then knocked down a few threes as well. Played extra-pass basketball, so really excited about what he’s doing for us,” the coach said.
Bazemore buys into Vogel’s defensive scheme
Vogel’s defensive scheme is known for its intricacy, often requiring new players to change their old habits and develop new ones. However, Bazemore said he quickly bought into the head coach’s vision and understood his role in his defensive system. “I like the overall scheme,” he said.
“I like Coach Vogel’s vision on things and historically since he’s been here, they’ve been a great defensive team. So it’s just about buying in and figuring it out.”
Bazemore’s importance to Vogel’s defense grew further following Trevor Ariza’s recent ankle surgery. Ariza injured his right ankle during the preseason and will be re-evaluated in about two months.