After a tumultuous off-season and living in the rumor mill, the Lakers are officially back on the court. Russell Westbrook is surprisingly still here and starting with a new coaching staff. It’s been a tale of two halves in the first two games, with the Lakers squandering a halftime lead in each.
LeBron James bounced back from going without a field goal in the first preseason game to having 23 points at halftime against the Phoenix Suns. He looked as physically imposing as ever, bouncing guys off him in transition and still getting to the basket at will. James hit half of his six threes and picked up right where he left off last year. With the bevy of guards on the Lakers roster, new head coach Darvin Ham has implemented actions to have James off the ball. He has increased the number of possessions starting in the corner, that flow into dribble hand-offs or being a screener for one of the guards.
It’s early but the new pace and space have looked to really help Westbrook find his role. The transition principles have created gaps and driving lanes to take advantage of. The team has made a concerted effort to have multiple players rebound and push, allowing Westbrook to fill the wing on a break. He’s been assertive and decisive, making quick reads on his possessions. Westbrook has even looked more engaged on the defensive end, staying within the new scheme.
Following a rough first game, Austin Reaves showed out in game two. After being the backup point guard against the Kings, coach Ham decided to put him in the starting lineup. His impact was felt all over the floor, finishing with a line of six points, nine assists, seven rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. He showed why there was a debate over the summer on whether he should start. Reaves attacked closeouts, making quick reads to the roll man or hitting the skip pass. He and James seemed to pick back up on the chemistry they built last year, finding each other on cuts or in transition.
On this week’s episode of “I Love Basketball” Raj Chipalu and Jacob Rude dove into all the takeaways from the first two preseason games, and what to expect going forward.
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And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.