As the Los Angeles Lakers absorb losing their first three preseason games, it’s clear this team is fragile in its infancy stages. Yes, there’s still time until the regular season opener on Oct. 19, but two weeks is a small timetable with so much work to be done.
They looked completely out-matched in their most recent outing, a blowout against the Denver Nuggets. There’s no reason to be alarmed that a team trotting out a starting lineup featuring Tyler Ennis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Luol Deng, Julius Randle and Thomas Bryant didn’t wow fans in attendance.
It’s something to be wary of heading into the final three games of preseason. This team does not look ready to compete against full rotations for 48 minutes. but hasn’t even gotten a chance to rightfully play together. The complete and total absence of Brook Lopez, a quality starting center that can open up the offense tremendously as a pick-and-pop big man, has also been a big factor thus far.
A game here or there without Lopez, or an ankle tweak every other week to a guard, could have a staggering effect to a team that isn’t playing with much margin for error when it comes to the win column. Every piece of the puzzle needs to be on the table as often as possible, at least giving the Lakers a chance to put the full picture together.
It’s fun to be optimistic and hopeful looking ahead for the Lakers, that’s what fans do. The front office put their chips on the team taking a step forward this season, largely with the emergence of the franchise-changing potential of Lonzo, and that’s directio we’ve been led to believe in.
6.5 points per game, six assists, five rebounds and 25 percent shooting from deep isn’t exactly breathtaking. At least not for the reason we’d be hoping for. Let’s see if this plays out like summer league, with Lonzo getting off to a slow start before taking off.
Kyle Kuzma has obviously been the biggest standout thus far. His 21 points against the Nuggets was a sight to behold Wednesday night, and he’s steadily looking more and more like the most intriguing young player on the roster. While we await to see Ingram develop, 22-year-old Kuzma is doing it all:
From the decisive footwork, elusive speed, three-point shooting and activity on both ends of the floor, Kuzma is playing like the spirit of Lakers fans’ hopes are empowering him. Once the intoxication of his potential playing out kinetically on the court fades away, though, it’s hard to be thrilled with what the Lakers have shown thus far.
It’s also disheartening that, despite putting defense at the top of every priority list, the team has seldom provided results. Their best stretch was arguably in the first quarter of the second game of preseason, which I took a closer look at here. Outside of that, it’s been more of the same.
This has all a great reminder that the Lakers aren’t out of the woods yet. The potential remains, though the equation has changed in a variety of ways. The front office has been preaching a raised level of commitment across the entire team, and only time will tell how much of an impact that will have. It could go a long way in addressing things, like a lack of defensive effort that head coach Luke Walton pointed to following the loss in Ontario.
There’s no reason to be entirely down on the Lakers, either. These types of things are to be expected so early in the process. Walton’s been adamant how rudimentary so much of what they were able to implement was to open a shortened training camp, and it’s certainly shown possession-by-possession. To think that all of these wrinkles on those crispy new Nike jerseys are going to be ironed out once the regular season opener tips off is unreasonable.