Although the Los Angeles Lakers may have once again ushered in some significant turnover to their roster this offseason, expectations remain as high as ever heading into the 2021-22 NBA season.
They kickstarted things with the blockbuster acquisition of Russell Westbrook and followed it up with a reunion of epic proportions by filling out the roster with a host of former players. While there is plenty of speculation regarding the dynamic of this new-look squad, the Lakers are optimistic about the supporting cast surrounding LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Getting so many new faces acquainted with the system each season comes with its own set of challenges. Fortunately, this year’s additions have wasted no time making a strong impression at the start of training camp.
Even James is admittedly impressed with how quickly the new players are getting assimilated in camp, naming three players in particular that have impressed him.
“I would say K. Nunn, Baze and DJ. They’ve picked up some things, obviously Rondo and Dwight kinda, they kind of already know our system so that goes without saying, but Baze, K. Nunn and DJ have been playing really good ball for us. It’s just learning, learn our system pretty fast. So that’s great to have.”
James was referring to Kendrick Nunn, Kent Bazemore and DeAndre Jordan, all of which should play key minutes this season.
Rajon Rondo echoed James’ praise while making sure to give Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Austin Reaves their due.
“You can’t say one guy,” Rondo said after Thursday’s practice. “Russ’ pace, his intensity, his competitiveness. You’ve got DJ’s rim protection, guys look like they have an open shot and DJ is coming out of nowhere. I don’t think Melo’s missed since he’s become a Laker, so everything is gelling and it’s only Day 2 so I’m excited to see guys grow, even down to the rookies. Austin Reaves is very impressive so it’s been a great two days so far. We want to be able to continue to build and grow each day.”
Frank Vogel doubled down on Rondo’s notion that Westbrook is looking like his usual, fast-paced self on the court.
“Russell Westbrook is pretty good. He’s a good basketball player. He’s good at basketball,” Vogel joked. “His speed, not just in the open court, the downhill driving and paint-attacking nature of his game has really been something else to watch up close in practice the last couple days. I think Lakers fans are going to be thrilled about what he looks like in the Purple and Gold.”
It is going to take some time for this star-studded group to get on the same page. However, having the benefit of a full offseason will surely pay some dividends leading up to the start of the regular season.
Players like James and Rondo are expected to serve as a stabilizing factor on both ends of the court while this team endures its growing pains early on.
James pleased with energy in practice
Even though the Lakers managed to secure a championship in the bubble, the truncated offseason that followed had a major impact on the team’s health issues down the line. That is no longer the case now that players have had ample time to rest this time around.
James has already started to notice the benefits of the extra time off in practice.
“Yeah, it’s just the energy,” James said. “Energy alone is just, last year after coming off the bubble, it literally took everything away from you. Any little bit of energy that you had, it was completely gone when we left there. So to come back into the season with the quick start that we had, kind of the life of the party was a little bit just like it was kind of stale, rightfully so. Guys just didn’t get an opportunity to have a mental break. So you could definitely feel the energy shift a lot more this season in the first two practices compared to last.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!