Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers had just seven players on their roster with more than five years of experience in the NBA: LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Reggie Bullock, Mike Muscala and Tyson Chandler. This season, they have 11, including seven players that have played at least 10 seasons in the league, and six that have made the Finals at least once in their careers.
Suffice to say, there is no shortage of veteran leadership on this year’s roster, and during an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated on Tuesday, Kyle Kuzma — one of the Lakers’ younger players — said that he believes the team’s leadership is what’s going to separate them from everyone else in the postseason:
Marc asked Kyle why the Lakers will be the champs. Kuzma: "Our leadership." https://t.co/19e3NDsHDv— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 9, 2020
There are legitimate concerns about how long it will take the Lakers to get their legs back under them when the season resumes in July because of how old some of their key players are, but those concerns have been mostly negated by the fact that they’ll have an edge mentally because of their combined postseason experience. Frank Vogel is also a source of confidence.
For all of the commotion that led up to Vogel’s hire, he’s been fantastic in his first season with the Lakers. Most people could have guessed that Vogel would succeed on the court (particularly on the defensive end) but it was harder to gauge how he’d get along with James, especially compared to Tyronn Lue, who coached James for three seasons in Cleveland.
It’s unclear if James and Vogel get along as well as Lue and James do, but James and Vogel have managed to have a good working relationship, which is more than some of James’ previous coaches can say. There’s the old saying that “winning fixes everything,” and while there is some truth to that, they probably wouldn’t have won as many games if James and Vogel didn’t have mutual respect for each other.
The postseason is a completely different beast, but between Vogel and the team’s veterans, they’re set up to make a deep run. Hopefully, that run ends in a champagne-soaked locker room.