By filling out their roster with tons of notable names and former stars, the Los Angeles Lakers made plenty of headlines during the offseason. And while there are a bunch of reasons to believe the team can still find success, they haven’t been able to string together a strong run of games this season.
A large part of that has been injuries, but even when the team has had a consistent rotation and lineup, the wins, frustratingly, haven’t always come. Interim head coach David Fizdale spoke about some of the team’s struggles recently — he was specifically related to the team’s inability to rebound against the Bulls on Sunday — and he seized on a point that may explain why this group has often struggled to do the little things.
“We did some things from a ball-movement standpoint as well as we’ve done them all year in sharing the basketball and moving it. But we have to understand that everyone on this team is a role player when it comes to taking care of the basketball, and when it comes to blocking out. Right now we’re getting out butts kicked in the possession game. Teams are getting too many more shots than us at the goal,” Fizdale said on Tuesday. “Everybody understands that, the hard part is that — like I told them — it’s just a switch that we have to make in ourselves.
“A lot of these guys were a lone star or a star next to a guy, and had a bunch of role players doing all this crap for them,” Fizdale continued with a laugh. “And they could throw the ball away and the team could live with it. But now we’ve got a bunch of stars. And we can’t have a lot of guys turning the ball over, or a lot of guys missing block-outs, or expecting other guys to do dirty work. We all have to do it. We all have to be role players in a certain respect. So they will own that. That’s the cool part about being around these guys is their professionalism, and hopefully tonight we’ll see a change in that area.”
The Lakers did not get a change in that their 108-90 loss to the Suns, but it’s also not simple for former stars to simply adapt and execute the duties of a role player. While someone like Dwight Howard was able to do that to help the Lakers win a title, his journey is the exception rather than the rule.
Accepting a reduced role doesn’t quite mean the same thing, either. A player like Carmelo Anthony has been great at taking fewer shots when on the court and shooting them from the right areas, but that doesn’t mean he’s willing to do much of the dirty work — like boxing out — that the team needs from its role players around LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis.
Even players like James, Westbrook and Davis have to embrace a certain level of doing the small things that they generally wouldn’t be tasked with. This is a unique roster that demands unique requirements from its players, from stars to benchwarmers.
All of this is what makes a player like Austin Reaves stick out even more on this team. He’s one of the few players willing to do that dirty work, being a glue guy that fills all sorts of roles based on who is playing with. Players like Malik Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker could potentially fill those types of roles as well, but the team will need all of its veterans to accept those roles this season in some capacity to have the type of success they desire.