The Lakers’ media day on Tuesday was a relatively drama-free one, especially considering how things played out across the league on Monday at other team’s media sessions.
But it was a busy day nonetheless, with a nearly entirely new-look Lakers team donning the purple and gold in front of cameras for the first time this season. And with too many quotes and videos flying by on social media to keep track of, let’s slow down here, and take a look at the five biggest takeaways from media day.
Anthony Davis will be playing the 5
Anthony Davis being the first man to sit down for an interview on media day allowed one of the biggest questions and talking points to be aired out immediately.
To what degree remains unclear. Davis’ quotes seemed to signal a change in mindset from years prior, and suggested a willingness to start at the 5. Head coach Frank Vogel, meanwhile, played things a little closer to the vest.
“He’s played center the last two years. It’s just what type of balance we’re going to have and that’s still to be determined. I think the first year, it was a near 50-50 balance of him playing alongside another big at the 4 and then him sliding to the 5. Last year was more him playing the 4 with Marc (Gasol) and (Andre) Drummond and (Montrezl Harrell) getting a lot of those minutes in there.
“I think we’re going to return more to the first year’s balance, but he’ll play some 4 and some 5.”
As someone who hates revealing all their cards, Vogel is likely trying to salvage the last bit of leverage he has in regards to lineups this season. But considering not just the reports but the words from Davis himself, the Lakers appear to be shifting their mindset in a good way this season.
The Lakers are fully vaccinated...even if they don’t want to talk about it
Rob Pelinka revealed prior to media day that the Lakers would be 100% vaccinated by opening night of the regular season. Anthony Davis reiterated that point to open media day, mentioning the team would be fully vaccinated while also mentioning his reasoning for getting vaccinated.
Davis was the exception, however, when it came to openness about the vaccine. LeBron James did reveal he was vaccinated, but would not go further in advocating for the vaccine for others.
“I think everyone has their own choice to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family and things of that nature,” James said. “I know I was very skeptical about it all, but after doing my research and things of that nature, I felt it was best suited for not only me, but my family and friends and that’s why I decided to do it. Anything that I talk about, I don’t talk about other people and what they should do. I speak for me, for my family and that’s what it’s about.”
When pressed on if he felt that matter was big enough to be a voice to encourage people to get vaccinated, James again pushed back.
“We’re talking about individuals' bodies. We’re not talking about something that’s political or racism or police brutality or things of that nature. We’re talking about people’s bodies and well-beings. So I don’t feel like, for me personally, I should get involved in what other people should do for their bodies and livelihoods.”
Kent Bazemore did discuss his decision to get vaccinated, a somewhat surprising admittance, considering he said last spring that he had no plans to get the jab.
“I’m big health advocate. I do everything I can to take care of my body. Nutrition, hydration, recovery, weight training, everything I take upon myself to stay healthy. When the vaccine first came out, I felt like it was kind of forced on me and I’m not a person that responds well to that. It just kind put this shell around me. I kind of fought it off a little bit.
“I had a good call with Rob Pelinka, and he laid it down to me in the most fairly honest way that I ever heard, and to pass up an opportunity like this, to be on a roster with so many greats especially during my era, it’d be hard opportunity to pass up... What helps me sleep at night is I made the decision for myself. I didn’t just get it because I was told to.”
Meanwhile, Dwight Howard, another player who came under fire for his pandemic-related opinions inside the bubble, simply refused to talk about the matter.
“I just want to keep that out of this,” Howard said when the topic of vaccines came up. “We’re not going to talk about none of the vaccines. I’m sorry, I can’t do it. I have opinions on it, but not on camera.”
I think there has been some confusion about what Dwight did (and didn't) say about the vaccines, and what was asked. So here is a full transcript of his exchange with @billoram and @DanWoikeSports on it: pic.twitter.com/e1NkkACprx— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) September 28, 2021
But at the end of the day, every single Laker who was willing to talk said the team will be 100% vaccinated. That is the main point here, even if some of the quotes from Tuesday were frustrating.
Sacrifice remains an overwhelming topic
One of the lesser-discussed benefits of having veterans on the roster is understanding the necessity of sacrificing. The Lakers’ talented, deep roster will mean players won’t play as many minutes as they may be used to or have played in the past.
One of the positions in the starting lineup that remains open heading into camp is on the wing. Malik Monk said that the coaching staff had not spoken to him about his role yet, but that he’s not worried about whether he starts.
“I don’t care if I start or come off the bench,” Monk said. “I’m just here to be the best Malik I can be for the Lakers.”
Wayne Ellington, who Monk will conceivably be competing against for a starting spot, shared a similar sentiment.
“At the end of the day, I’m here to help win a championship,” Ellington said. “So whatever coach Vogel and the guys feel like is the best person out there to complement those guys, man, that’s what it’s going to be and I’ll be here and I’ll be ready to do my job no matter what.”
Compare those comments from last year leading up to the season when Dennis Schröder announced he was done with “off the bench stuff,” and it’s certainly a different vibe with this team.
The Las Vegas trip could be a launching pad for this team
Before the 2019-20 season began, a newly-assembled Lakers team took a pre-preseason trip to Las Vegas that served as both a chance for team bonding as much as a prerequisite to the start of training camp.
This season, another new-look Lakers team did the same, taking to Las Vegas last week with the same focus. Multiple players spoke of the trip and what impact it had on the team as they head into a big season.
“We spent a little bit of time together this past weekend in Vegas,” Bazemore said. “It was good to hang out with the guys before things really got serious. Really good time. Really good for the soul and for the mind.”
“We obviously have had time in here this summer to work with each other, but not in a big group like that,” DeAndre Jordan added. “We talked the game of basketball a ton, and we were able to incorporate some things on the floor that we were probably going to do in training camp anyway. With a group like this, we have the talent, we have the IQ, the camaraderie but we wanted to be able to get a head start on what other teams have over us at the moment, and that’s time together.”
Hopefully, this year’s Vegas trip leads to a similar conclusion at season’s end as the last one.
This is just a fun, hilarious group of players
Media days are always pretty light-hearted affairs where players can open up and have fun before the season starts. This veteran team knew exactly what to expect, and was able to have some fun with it.
Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook showed that their beef was fully squashed with a fun moment while getting their pictures taken together.
No word on if the beef between William Rondo and Westbrook is squashed yet, though.
Rondo also had some fun during his interview when told that James and Davis spoke about how much the team missed him last season.
Rondo’s reaction to hearing LeBron and AD missing him last season lmfaooooo pic.twitter.com/OHVO6ye5mx— LakeShowScoop (@LakeShowScoop) September 28, 2021
Dwight Howard talked about his iconic Masked Singer performance with Spectrum SportsNet, and even gave them a sample of his abilities.
And, of course, James and Davis were up to their usual jokes and laughs throughout the day as well.
After a frustrating season last year, at least these Lakers will be enjoyable to watch and root for if nothing else. But thankfully, they should be pretty good, too.