While listening to the introductory press conferences of all of the new players on the Lakers, one theme seemed to stand out — sacrifice. Many players spoke about how they were here to win, and that their role didn’t matter just as long as the journey ended with a ring. And with superstars in LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, as well as names that pop off the roster list in Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol, there are bound to be some players who receive less playing time than what they are expecting.
Kent Bazemore — a new but somewhat familiar Laker who recently played with the Warriors — is no exception. He knows nothing is promised to him, and hell, he even decided to let everyone know that this point was really driven home to him by head coach Frank Vogel.
“It’s the grind. In this league where the talent is so abundant, you got to earn it. You got to earn your minutes,” Bazemore said at his introductory press conference. “That’s one of the first things I got from from coach Vogel. He’s a fair man and nothing’s given. He’s a defensive-first coach. He wears the hardhat, blue collar. It’s nothing that’s like ‘Hey, here. This is yours,’ and he said that on the phone.
“You have to earn your minutes, and that’s just how I like it. Iron sharpens iron. You’re only as good as your weakest link. We don’t have any of those here, but we’re going to push each other every day to be the best we can be,” Bazemore continued. “And when we playing against somebody in another uniform, we’ll do our best to take it to them. I’m looking forward to the everyday grind of the matchups or whoever it is. Just guys trying to jockey for position to play in the purple and gold.”
It’s really hard to predict what starting lineups Vogel and the Lakers will use, let alone the many rotations within a game that will result in a lot of minutes for some players on one night, with others warming the bench in their place. However, other than the obvious bets for substantial playing time in LeBron, Westbrook, and Davis, it seems like Bazemore is another one you could take to your local casino.
Although he’s 32 years old — which is far from being considered young in the NBA — Bazemore still finds himself in the younger half of this roster, as five players are at least 35 or older. That youth, when combined with his defense on a roster with players who lack in that area, should get him a decent amount of minutes.
“Defensively is where I hang my hat, getting that assignment every night. You watch the playoffs, you see all the younger talent at the guard position,” Bazemore said when asked on how he fits in with the roster, “I’m looking forward to coming in and kind of shutting off that water. Waking up every day with that assignment to guard other team’s best player at the guard position.
“Obviously we have size on wing. We got Bron and AD. Having AD at the rim, Dwight Howard at the rim will give me a chance to be a little more aggressive,” Bazemore continued. “And they’re obviously changing a little bit or rules with all the funkiness that these offensive guys got away with last year so that have bid well my favor as well.”
It was previously reported that Bazemore turned down more money and years on a contract from the Warriors, with the former Laker deciding to go back to wearing the purple-and-gold. He may have done that because he saw a clear, possibly increased role on the Lakers with a better chance of winning a championship alongside the team’s three-headed monster.
He basically said as much during an appearance on Spectrum SportsNet.
“I felt like there was a real need for me here. Looking at the roster, they definitely got a lot more shooting but they needed that pitbull defensively, and that’s something I hang my hat on. That’s something I’ve always hung my hat on since I stepped foot in this league. That’s actually what helped me get into the NBA.
“When I came in, I wasn’t that great of a ballhandler, I wasn’t that great of a shooter, but I played extremely hard and I played really good defense, and that earned me minutes on the floor, and I just continued to work on everything else. So being back here with some opportunities to play some big minutes on a big stage with some of the best players in the game, it’s something you really can’t pass up, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Although Bazemore and the rest of the new Lakers seem ready to sacrifice, it sure seems like he has a clear cut hole to fill on this team, even if Vogel isn’t ready to promise him anything. Bazemore may not have any guarantees, but he sees the hole, and hopefully he is ready to fill it, because his defense will almost certainly be needed on this roster.