After signing LeBron James in free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers filled out their roster with versatile veterans who could help carry the burden of playmaking for the team. On Saturday, the Lakers got their first look without James as he sat for rest.
Rajon Rondo dished out a game-high 10 assists, marking a second time this preseason he had at leas that many. The Lakers were competitive in the first half but came undone in the third and fourth quarters because of turnovers.
The offense, particularly when Rondo was not on the court, grew stagnant. On the surface, one might suspect the Lakers to make adjustments to accommodate for James’ absence.
However, Brandon Ingram doesn’t believe that’s the case. “I think we have another guy on the basketball floor (Rondo) that sees the game the way he does and passes the way he does,” Ingram explained. “We’ve just got to be active on the offensive end and defensive end. Have the same [focus] on the defensive end that starts our offense.”
Ingram played well when pressed into point-guard duties last season, and he was given an opportunity to handle the ball against the Clippers. He finished with 10 points on just 3-of-10 shooting, to go along with one rebound, two assists and one blocked shot.
Not having James, and considering Lonzo Ball again remained out, forced the Lakers to require on rotations that haven’t necessarily seen much time together. One such instance was when Rajon Rondo, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson and Josh Hart closed out the first half.
“We’re looking for setting screens, the angles, things that no matter what the lineup is, we should be doing consistently,” Walton said. “We did some nice things tonight, we did some things we obviously got to do a lot better still.”
And upon announcing that James would be held out for rest, Walton stressed the importance of the Lakers nonetheless pressing along.
“Obviously, having LeBron here is incredible. He makes our team that much better, but we have to be able to play when he’s not on the floor,” Walton said. “And we can.
“We’re very confident with the players that we have. Whether it’s the second unit when he’s on the bench, or whatever the reason, we have to be confident and comfortable playing with each other.”
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