LeBron James is inching closer to a return from the high ankle sprain that’s kept him out the last five-plus weeks, and when he does, the Lakers have some business to take care of. Not just on the court, where they’ll be trying to avoid slipping any further in the standings, but off the court, where Dennis Schröder says the team will be getting together to get on the same page.
But first, some context. On Saturday night, Anthony Davis was asked about where the Lakers are with their chemistry, and if they can recapture what they had last year in the bubble. He thinks so, but he also didn’t entirely agree with the premise of the question.
“First, it’s going to take everyone getting healthy. Everyone getting healthy would definitely help our chemistry on the floor. I think our chemistry off the floor is tremendous, but on the floor we haven’t had a lot of games with one another because of injuries,” Davis said.
That off-court chemistry was on full display as Davis joked with Schröder — who was in the room waiting to talk during that answer — that he could only take four postgame questions from the media because the Lakers needed to get to the bus and head out. But Davis’ point also clearly resonated with Schröder, and it was one he went out of his way to elaborate on when responding to a mostly unrelated question about the team’s mindset down the stretch.
“We’ve got a few games left until the playoffs. Everybody has got to step it up. That starts with me, AD, everyone who ever comes in the game, everybody has got to step it up now,” Schröder said. “We’re going to talk about it. I think when Bron comes back we’re going to have a conversation as a team. Because our chemistry, like AD said, off the court is great, but on the court we’ve just got to turn it up some more.”
Both players insisting that the team’s off-court chemistry is great is good news, because with the Lakers facing a rotation that’s tighter than some role players would like it to be, everyone getting along and buying in to whatever minutes the team needs — or doesn’t need — from them is going to be key down the stretch.
Still, both Davis and Schröder are right. The Lakers have lacked offensive cohesion since James got hurt, ranking 28th in the league in offensive efficiency over the weeks since his injury. James’ talents will help that naturally, but the Lakers will also need time to get on the same page so that everything is clicking when the postseason rolls around.
“We’re going to have to find ways to win. It might not be pretty at the time, but we’re still a great defensive team,” Davis said. “We have to lay our hats on that until we’re able to find our rhythm offensively, especially me.”
To Davis’ point, the Lakers have still managed the third-best defense in the NBA without James, and they’ll need to stay a well-oiled machine on that end as best they can until Davis’ shot starts falling and everyone gets comfortable at where they fit in with this new Davis, James and Andre Drummond reality offensively.
Schröder is confident they can do so.
“We’re going to be fine, but in the meantime we’ve still got to get wins,” Schröder said.
If they can, they can use more of the time when James comes back to work on the on-court chemistry they’ll discuss in that meeting instead of scrapping to hold on to their place in the standings.