The Los Angeles Lakers are rolling to begin the new year as they extended their win streak to four after blowing out the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
LeBron James led all scorers with 32 points, but he received plenty of help across the roster as Malik Monk poured in a season-high 29 points while Talen Horton-Tucker and Avery Bradley each contributed 21 points. It was perhaps the most fun and energized the team has looked so far during the 2021-22 season and it really seems as though they have caught their stride as a group.
The small-ball lineups with James at center have done wonders for the Lakers on both ends of the floor, but the more important thing is that guys are finally healthy. Consistency has been an issue all season long, but James believes they are finally turning a corner in that regard.
“I think it’s just giving us some stability,” said of what having players healthy has meant. “When you know guys are in the lineups, you know the rotations are gonna be crisp, everybody kind of knows when they’re going in, when they’re getting subbed out, you know who’s on the floor and how you’re playing with that particular group.
“So like I said whenever that was, because of COVID at the time hampering our lineups and hampering our players at the time, it was just hard to get that chemistry and that camaraderie on the floor. But as we continue to get guys back from injury and from protocols, we continue to work our habits and play some good ball.”
It was difficult to project how Los Angeles would look because of injuries and health and safety protocols, but for James, the view is finally coming into focus.
“We’re just getting our guys back, it’s literally that simple. You guys have asked me plenty of times when we were losing games or whatever, ‘can we judge this team?’ I told you guys over and over no, we can’t, we don’t know what we have. We’re starting to see what we have because guys are in the lineup and soon we get K. Nunn as we and not too far off of that, AD returns. So when you have a team that’s built on depth and chemistry out on the floor and you don’t have your depth or the chemistry because guys are out, it’s just hard to gauge it. And as of late, we’ve had both of those.”
There were valid concerns about how the Lakers looked earlier in the year, but it seems as though their woes were simply a product of their constantly changing lineups. Any team is going to struggle when they can not practice or play together, and L.A. was not exempt from this as head coach Frank Vogel had limited options at his disposal.
However, having a healthy James back and a full complement of role players has made the Lakers look like almost an entirely different team the past few weeks which bodes well for the rest-of-season outlook. The Purple and Gold look like they have finally settled on an identity and it will be exciting to see how much more they improve over the second half of the year.
Frank Vogel evaluating lineups as Lakers get healthy
Even though the Lakers are starting to get back to full strength, Vogel has already admitted that certain players will not be in the rotation during certain games or stretches.
As the Lakers continue to get healthy, Vogel is going to keep evaluating lineups and who plays is largely going to be dependent on the matchup.
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