Throughout most of the 2021-22 season, the Los Angeles Lakers have had trouble mustering up the required energy and effort required to pull out wins.
The Lakers have had a bad habit of lying down and letting teams trample over them after giving up a run, a frustrating thing for team personnel and fans to watch nearly on a nightly basis. However, Los Angeles has finally shown signs of life the past week as they have played with much more urgency and a certain care that was not there earlier in the year.
Stanley Johnson has been a primary figure in the team’s recent surge as the young forward plays with a competitive edge and fire whenever he is on the court. Even though the shorthanded Lakers lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, Johnson praised the roster for playing hard the entire game without LeBron James.
“I think it’s important just in general,” Johnson said of the Lakers’ energy. “Obviously in the situation that we’re in, our goal is championships and it’s still there. We’re trying to put the work towards things so when we get to the Play-In Game and the playoffs, we’re ready and playing our best basketball. I’ve been here since December and I’m just starting to figure out stuff, Wenyen just got here two weeks ago and he’s playing a lot of minutes. We’ve been in and out of lineups and stuff like that and hopefully will get AD back pretty soon, Bron has been in and out of the lineup. So it’s still tough figuring out strategically running plays, because all of our stuff is around AD and Bron.
“So it’s tough in that fashion, but if we play with that type of effort, especially me, I got to be a little bit better with little small things defensively, offensively to help our system keep going the way it is. For us, there is no win tonight for us at all but the effort is something that we can continue playing like that and we can use it later going on is what I would say.”
Johnson also revealed that the Lakers met as a group to discuss how they could be better collectively after an embarrassing loss to the Toronto Raptors at home in which they fell down 23-2.
“I think we’re all grown men and we’re professionals so at the end of the day, it’s not acceptable. There’s no team on the planet that should be blowing us out, especially not in the first four or five minutes of a game. So when it gets egregious, you have to look at yourself. Nobody else, man to man, I think we all looked at ourselves and we’re gonna change it. I think we’ve played better since that point in time, we’re changing, and that’s kind of what you have to do as men. We have to change it, nobody is gonna like play us softer.
“We have a great game plan, we have great coaches so we have to change it and I think the effort level and just the attention to detail, not saying that we weren’t doing it before, but I just think we’re executing at a higher rate than we were before. Especially in the league, it’s marginal. It’s like two or four more times can help you erase a 10-point lead or a 10-point gap in points and that’s kind of what it is. It’s like two possessions and then it blows up because people make threes or and-ones and people are so athletic, if you give away a couple possessions, those things can string together and you’re down 15 before you even know it.”
The players meeting did wonders as they have looked like an entirely different team since that loss to the Raptors, proving they are capable of competing with the best teams. Following that talk, L.A. went on to win impressive games against the Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers, two Eastern Conference playoff teams that have been playing well as of late.
Even though it is unlikely the Purple and Gold will go very far in the playoffs, it is encouraging to see them finally showing some pride on the court. If they show this kind of effort the rest of the way, then fans can be at peace knowing they gave it their best shot.
Stanley Johnson cites several veterans who led team discussion about effort
When discussing the team huddle over effort, Johnson noted that the Laker veterans were the ones who were most vocal. Johnson name-dropped LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, and Kent Bazemore as the players who spoke up the most.
“I think all our leaders did. Russ, Bron, AD, Melo, [Trevor Ariza], Bazemore, all the veteran guys. They know what’s up. They’re looking at us like come on, we got to do our jobs. To a man, everybody. Playing or not playing, everybody. So I thought that was encouraging.”
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