The Los Angeles Lakers succeeded in the Orlando bubble last season thanks to hard work and sacrifices that elevated their game to the championship level.
Undeniably having two superstars on the team in LeBron James and Anthony Davis gave L.A. an advantage over their opponents, but winning the title last season eventually boiled down to the collective effort of the whole roster and role players stepping up in the playoffs.
By bringing gritty players such as Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell in the offseason, the Lakers showed they wanted to preserve their identity, which is defined by hustle and toughness as much as talent.
“If you really sit down and watch a 48-minute game, the way we play the game offensively and defensively, you’ll see it’s more than just talent,” James said.
“For us, we want to play harder than teams, we want to dive on loose balls, we want to take charges, we want to get our hands on deflections and things of that nature,” he said. “That’s who we are as well.
“Yes, we have the talent. We have a lot of talent, but at the end of the day, it will only get you so far. We do the dirty things as well.”
A recent victory over the Denver Nuggets showed both players and the coaching staff are on the same page when it comes to mindset and vision for the team. Head coach Frank Vogel called out L.A. for negative body language and insufficient effort that translated into a double-digit deficit at halftime.
And Davis welcomed the criticism. “He got after us, and it was right that he did that. It was well deserved because we were playing sloppy and not with a lot of energy,” Davis said.
“A lot of guys — including myself — had bad body language and were frustrated about the game.”
Vogel praises Schroder for energy and sacrifice
During his halftime dress-down last week, Vogel brought up Schroder’s dives to recover a loose ball late in the second quarter and told his players to follow suit after the break to bounce back from the deficit.
After the game, the Lakers coach heaped praise on the 27-year-old playmaker for his hustle which, he added, played a major part in L.A.’s hot start to the season. “We definitely look for that kind of hustle,” Vogel said of Schroder’s play.
“Dennis fits into our identity of being a really hard-playing dude. How hard he plays and the speed, toughness, and nastiness he plays the game with — particularly on the defensive end and attacking the basket offensively — it’s a big reason why we’re No. 1 in the league on defense and a big reason why we have one of the best records.”
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