Winning solves everything, and the Los Angeles Lakers have done a ton of it. In discussing team chemistry, though, this does appear to be a chicken and egg situation, where one wonders whether the success has helped chemistry, or the Lakers’ chemistry has made their success possible.
Either way, the Lakers have enjoyed the way they’ve come together this season, highlighted especially by the way they handled LeBron James’ poor first half in Miami. According to JaVale McGee (as he told Bill Oram of The Athletic), that game really solidified how the team has worked together.
“It humbles everybody when your leader can take criticism,” McGee said. “It humbles everybody and lets everybody know that no one person is this team. We’re all the team. We all can talk to each other. We all can tell somebody if they did something wrong and we’re going to be right on if they do something right also. That’s how our team is put together. That’s how we’re working and that’s how we’re winning these games.”
James said after that game that his teammates got after him for how lackadaisically he handled the ball in the first half. He would ultimately get his stuff together, and the Lakers would hand Miami their first home loss of the season.
Anthony Davis, James’ running mate atop the roster, also weighed in on the team’s policy of accountability, and said that it doesn’t even require in-game production to be able to call out teammates:
“I think one through 15, we can talk to each other,” Davis said. “DeMarcus wasn’t even playing, and he was talking to Bron. So, we all have respect for each other and have the confidence to go up to whoever and try to get him going. The fact that he listens and everyone on the team listens and can accept criticism from our guys is what makes us so good.”
This is the only way a team with so much talent can really optimize itself. Yes, there is strategy on both sides of the ball and fit absolutely matters, but at the end of the day, players are only going to put forth the requisite energy to open the season the way the Lakers have if they feel like they matter. So far this season, there have been plenty of instances where players have pushed each other to be better.
Miami provided the perfect example of all this. Yes, they were playing a short-handed Heat team, and sure, it took contesting a potentially game-tying shot at the end of the game to win, but what apparently happened at halftime was endlessly more important than the result.
Now, it’ll be interesting to see whether this level of togetherness continues when the team hits more adversity than they have thus far, but to their credit, they have overcome plenty of injuries, and their 14-game road winning streak is itself an example of how well they work together. This has been pretty cool to watch over these first couple months, and it looks set to continue for several more.