Despite a disappointing preseason slate, the Los Angeles Lakers got a better sense of their roster for the 2021-22 season.
One person who has made an impression is Kent Bazemore as the veteran has looked every part as the 3-and-D wing the team envisioned when they signed him. Head coach Frank Vogel has continued to be impressed with Bazemore and it is easy to see why given his defensive versatility.
Injuries have unfortunately already hit the Lakers, but the starting roles outside of the Big 3 have yet to be finalized. Bazemore is one of a handful of players that are new to the team and is trying to get up to speed.
“I’m still figuring things out,” Bazemore said after Friday’s practice. “We’ve had injuries, Coach [Vogel] has been experimenting with lineups, so I’m just out there trying to figure things out. A lot of times I’m watching myself on film and it’s kind of like a deer in the headlights just trying to read these guys on the team, Russ, Bron, AD.
“The most simplest way I can put it is it’s like having a new job. This is my fourth team in three seasons. Playbooks, personnel, it’s been a lot of moving parts around me and pushing a little bit of an identity crisis at times so I’ve been climbing out of that and trying to figure things out. The energy and effort is there, what I’ve been focused on is the conditioning and how the body is holding up so all that stuff will come in due time. I understood when I came here that it would be a process, winning the championship for some franchises, it takes a couple years of a cohesive unit to get it done and we’re trying to do it in one so that’s the beauty in all of this, just taking it day by day.”
However, the wing did admit that starting alongside the stars would mean more to him. “Oh yeah, 1000%. I was fortunate to start a couple games in Atlanta with four All-Stars back in 2015 – Teague, Millsap, Korver and Horford – so coming from where I’m from and having an outside shot from the very beginning to make it, to even get a contract and fast forward 10 years to share the court with some of the greats of my era, it’s a humbling experience. Every night, I walk out of the gym and I’m actually waiting for people to ask me ‘what did you do tonight?’ So I can say I played basketball with LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.
“And I think with my upbringing, just continuing to be grounded allows me to appreciate those things and not take them for granted. I think I did a good job this year in my own right of just kind of staying the course. It’s easy to kind of get frustrated with how things have been going but the growth, if you look at results, it’s easy to get frustrated. But if you watch the film, you can see the growth, you can see the glimpses of what this team is going to be and that just gets you fired up to come to work every day.”
At this point, Bazemore feels like a lock to be in the starting lineup on Opening Night, though it remains to be seen how Vogel approaches the decision in the days leading up to it.
Kent Bazemore discusses growth since first stint with Lakers
Bazemore’s first stint in Los Angeles ended earlier than expected when the team chose not to re-sign him, but since coming back it is clear he has learned a lot and opened up about his journey. “I’ve grown as a pro. As a pro, I’ve grown tremendously. I played 23 games here and then I got injured right at the end of the season and that kind of sparked kind of where I am now with the attention to detail, recovery, prep work, taking care of the body.
“It’s just good to see it come full circle being back year. I was here last time, I think they won 19 games or something and I’m here now with an opportunity to win a championship so talk about full circle, you leave and go on your journey, it’s a scary world out there, you take your bumps and bruises and you keep putting in the work, making the right decisions over and over and over again and you find yourself with all you can ask for, the chance to win it all. so definitely been blessed and appreciative of the situation.”
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