Dennis Schröder’s first year with the Lakers started off with a bang but ended with quite the whimper.
After a 21-6 start had the Lakers and their fans eyeing a repeat, with Schröder at the helm of one of the league’s most devastating five-man units, things took a turn around Valentine’s Day with Anthony Davis’ injury. Schröder elected to wait for unrestricted free agency instead of negotiating an extension with the Lakers and then had two separate stints in the health and safety protocols that accelerated his decline towards the end of the season. It all cratered with a first-round loss to the Suns, when Schröder was ineffectual, and even scoreless in Game 5, as the Lakers lost the last three games.
When Schröder ended up leaving Los Angeles, no one was exactly disappointed to see him go. It was a steep fall from grace for a player whose tenure with the Lakers started so promisingly.
Now that Schröder is back with the Lakers, he has a chance to not only reframe his status in the NBA (it is worth remembering that he was left unsigned until L.A. scooped him up near the end of the offseason) but also restore some of the good vibes he used to have with the Lakers. It’s a second chance, as he said after his first practice of the season Monday:
“The whole situation with the Lakers, that was a little weird,” Schröder said. “That’s the reason why I said, ‘I’ll even play for free here,’ just to make it right, just to put everybody in the right direction.”
The point guard noted that he’s already comfortable with the Lakers, given the continued presence of LeBron James and Anthony Davis as well as familiar faces from earlier in his NBA career in Darvin Ham and Russell Westbrook. And as he works to build chemistry with his fellow new additions, one factor in Schröder’s favor is that the NBA is no longer under pandemic protocols. In 2020-21, the players couldn’t even go out to dinner together but now, there are more opportunities to get to know one another off the court. Rest assured, Schröder plans on utilizing the newfound freedom.
“All the veterans, myself, we gotta just do a great job having the team around, do a lot of activities together just to build the team chemistry,” Schröder said Monday. “Everybody talking about team chemistry, but you gotta do a lot for it. That's what we did in Germany, and of course, I try to bring that here, to be like a little family and go to war together when we play.”
Now 29 years old, Schröder is one of the elder statesmen on a young Lakers team, and he recognizes the potential for leadership due to his age and experience, and his natural position on the court. Outside observers never would have identified that as one of Schröder’s strengths when he was a Laker the first time around, so it’s interesting to see how he has evolved, or at least tried to, since then.
The Lakers have had a recent habit of giving several of their former players second acts, but they haven’t all gone so well. Schröder seems to have the right idea, in theory, about how to buck that trend; if all goes well, he’ll actually get to feel the love of Lakers fans in person instead of remotely. After a humbling exit in 2021, ideally, Schröder’s second season in L.A. will culminate with a bit more fanfare.