With scrimmages in the rearview mirror, the Los Angeles Lakers will tipoff the NBA restart on Thursday against the L.A. Clippers.
The exhibitions provided a good opportunity for the Lakers to shake off some rust, but the eight seeding games will act more as a tuneup for the playoffs. Los Angeles is up 5.5 games on the Clippers in the Western Conference standings, essentially securing their spot as the top seed.
One of the more intriguing aspects to monitor for the Lakers is going to be how head coach Frank Vogel implements Dion Waiters and JR Smith in games that have more stakes.
“That’s going to be one of the bigger goals of these eight games, is just seeing exactly how those guys fit in and what they look like with different combinations of the guys that have already been here,” Vogel said.
“We’ve had some very encouraging signs with both of them in the first three scrimmage games and all the practices we’ve had. But it’s a different animal when you’re playing meaningful games.
“We’ll continue to see how all that plays out, but we feel good about what we call good problems. They’re playing well and we know they can step up and play bigger minutes if needed. We’ll use these eight games to get enough of a look at them to see how they fit into the playoff picture.”
Waiters and Smith looked much better than anticipated during the scrimmages, finding their roles within the offense and executing them well. Waiters showed he can ease the ball handling void left by Rajon Rondo, while Smith demonstrated he is more than capable of spacing the floor and knocking down threes when called upon.
It will be interesting to see how their roles evolve when the games begin, with the match up against the Clippers serving as a good measuring stick for the Lakers.
Anthony Davis talks approach to seeding games
While Vogel will be using the eight games to further evaluate Waiters and Smith, the rest of the Lakers will be looking to settle into the groove they found themselves in prior to the season’s hiatus.
Four months off from the court means Los Angeles will have a lot of work to do to prepare for the playoffs, but Anthony Davis said the team’s philosophy and attitude toward the upcoming games will remain the same.
“Approach it the same we did every game all season. We’ve been off for four months, so we want to use these games for us to get better going into the postseason. We want to treat these like regular season games,” Davis explained.
“Like we have eight games left in the regular season, come out and play our style of basketball.”
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