The Los Angeles Lakers quickly moved on from starting DeAndre Jordan at the center with Anthony Davis at power forward earlier this season. Head coach Frank Vogel recognized that the team was far more effective on both ends of the floor when Davis was at center.
Since then, the Lakers’ two centers — Jordan and Dwight Howard — have gotten minimal minutes, as Davis takes a majority of time at the center position. And yet, the Lakers have now lost three straight and four of their last five to drop below .500, with three more road games still left to play on their current trip.
The Lakers have looked lost on defense and haven’t had a consistent enough offense to make up for it. The latter problem, Vogel thinks, can be fixed by decreasing the amount of isolation and increasing player movement. “Yeah, if we move (laughs). If we move, the spacing looks great,” Vogel said of Davis-at-the-five lineups. “The ball doesn’t move and players don’t move, it doesn’t matter what kind of space you have.
“We’re playing one-on-one and we just got to get the ball moving a little bit more, and when we do it, we look great. And we’ve seen that we can do it. Just got to do it longer and obviously for 48 minutes.”
Meanwhile, LeBron James took a different approach to the problem, saying that the Lakers are still evaluating which lineup combinations work the best. “We’re trying to find out what lineup best fits us. Obviously we started to season big with DJ and AD and myself at the three, four, five, and as of late, we went smaller with AD at the five. So we’re trying to figure out, get enough minutes long enough to where we see what’s the best lineups for us. And how we want to see us play.
“Obviously we’ve played big over the course of my years here, especially with Frank, obviously, with JaVale and Dwight and last year with Marc and when Big Drum came to the team as well and Trezz. So we’ll see where we land at some point. But I think it probably will happen over the course of the next few weeks as we get close to pretty much a fourth of the season.”
The answer to this issue is likely a combination of both. The Lakers are still in evaluation mode, 17 games in with a brand new team featuring just three returning players, two of which missed significant time already this year.
However, they have to play better with the guys they have on the floor. And it starts with very simple basketball skills. The Lakers are getting pummeled on the boards and are running less than creative offensive sets, two easy fixes that could change a lot for this team’s early fortunes.
James and Westbrook still learning how to play together
Friday night against the Boston Celtics was just the seventh game this year in which James played alongside Russell Westbrook. While there were great moments — like the first quarter — there were plenty of bad moments as well.
Westbrook says that he and James are still learning to play together and that it’s going to take time. “Nobody’s winning anything right now. When we get our team together and playing and get a better rhythm, that will come as the season prolongs, and that’s that,” Westbrook stated.
“I think the reality of it is that everybody on the outside has really high expectations of our team, as they should. But the reality of it is we haven’t really played with each other.”
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