LAS VEGAS- With the NBA announcing it will start the regular season earlier in part due to an effort to decrease the wear and tear on its players that too many back-to-back games produces, it’s worth noting that the Los Angeles Lakers will be playing in their fourth game in five nights when they take on the Dallas Mavericks in the Las Vegas Summer League semifinals Sunday.
Should the Lakers win that game, the title game Monday will be their fifth game in six nights, a feat of endurance far more exhausting than the vast majority of people’s trips to the already energy-devouring Sin City.
Lakers summer league head coach Jud Buechler says the team’s legs looked “a little heavy” in their 115-106 win over the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night, but he adds that the team needs their best players because of injuries forcing Brandon Ingram, P.J. Dozier and Josh Hart out of the Lakers’ rotation. He thinks his young team can handle the workload.
“They're young kids. The coaches keep telling me to take them out and I just go 'no, they're going to stay in, they're 20 years old. They're fine,’" Buechler said, and it’s why he has no plans to rest them tomorrow.
“Are you kidding me,” Buechler said when asked of the possibility he’d sit players like Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, who missed the Lakers’ Monday game with a groin injury and cramps, respectively. “They're going all the way. Those are our guys. Absolutely they're going to play. They're young. I think they're enjoying the winning... We'll give it everything we have, and we'll see how it goes."
Ball acknowledges he’s tired, but the rookie doesn’t feel like the minutes load is too much for him to handle.
"You just got to play through it,” Ball said. “We have a good training staff and they're helping us a lot."
Kuzma says he gets a rush of adrenaline when he gets on the court that makes him forget any fatigue.
"It's fun. I want to win. I'm a winner and I hate to lose. I'm going to keep dying until I win,” Kuzma said.
If the Lakers do go all the way to the title game, or even if they don’t, Buechler says the goal is for the team in Las Vegas is to develop winning habits, rather than rest.
"Hopefully all the stuff we're doing right now with our young guys and the guys who are going to make our team will carry over when it counts, when the season starts," Buechler said.
Despite how many minutes he’s played over the Lakers’ last three games, Ball says he’s ready for more.
"I'm tired right now, but tomorrow's a new day,” Ball said. “I'll refresh again and hopefully get another win."
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats per NBA.com. and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.