Let’s dig into the five most pressing ones.
LeBron and AD feel 100% healthy
For a team built around two players with extensive injury histories, this is obviously the most important storyline going into the year, basketball or otherwise. And as was expected after Darvin Ham said the team would all be full participants to start training camp, LeBron James and Anthony Davis both confirmed they are ready to hit the ground running this season:
"I feel good physically. I feel good with my game," Anthony Davis says. He wants to return to being a threat on all three levels.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) October 2, 2023
LeBron says a lot of his attention this summer was on treating his foot.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) October 2, 2023
“I pretty much tore the whole tendon in my right foot,” LeBron said.
He said his foot has reacted well in offseason workouts.
On Spectrum SportsNet, James gave the crew at the desk further clarity.
“I was able to get my foot back to where it was before the injury last year,” James said. “Feeling pretty good right now.”
As for Davis, he’s feeling so good that he set what might come across as an audacious goal for himself.
Anthony Davis wants to play all 82 games
Anthony Davis has never played more than 75 games in a season, and hasn’t played in more than 60 since his first year with the Lakers. Even so, he’s hoping to play in every single on this season:
AD said his goal is to play all 82 games for the Lakers this season. Said he wants to be available for his teammates— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) October 2, 2023
It’s worth noting that Davis set the same goal for himself last year, and really, even if I get why anyone would be skeptical that this is possible, what else is he supposed to say? “I hope to play in more than 60 of our games this year” or “man I really want to play in 65 games so I can be eligible for postseason awards”?
That’s not even to say that Davis’ motivation is individual success. His other quotes on media day imply the opposite; he burns deeply for the team to win, but him playing in as many games as possible — even if he falls short of all 82 — will help the Lakers get there.
We all set goals in our day-to-day and work lives that we won’t necessarily reach, but it’s like they say, “shoot for the moon, and even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” In this case, Davis playing in as many or more games as stars of his caliber should be a good goal, and hopefully he can reach it (or hell, playing in all 82 would be great, even if it doesn’t feel particularly likely).
Everyone says they’re ready to buy into their roles, whatever those roles may be
Elsewhere in the UCLA Health Training Center, vibes were just as good. There was no one being asked for their reaction to a teammate’s possibly fat-suit-fitting-related media day holdout or weird comments about “respect” and “selfishness” like is going on elsewhere in the NBA.
Quite the contrary, every Laker pretty much just talked about how they are happy to buy into whatever opportunity they’re given.
Now, is that easier to say before players find out what their actual role will be at the end of training camp, or before minutes start to be doled out and they are getting less than they may want? Certainly, but unlike media days past, no one was essentially declaring themselves a starter or otherwise requiring any major ego management behind the scenes.
Asked about the difference between this media day and last year, Darvin Ham says there's a "lot less unknowns" with a big laugh.— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) October 2, 2023
"Last year was a lot of heavy lifting, to put it mildly."
Take the Lakers’ point guard situation, for example. Gabe Vincent, coming off of an NBA Finals run with the Heat and being the team’s biggest (non-incumbent) free agent signing, could have felt miffed when Ham went out of his way to name D’Angelo Russell the team’s starting point guard last week before a single second of camp took place.
Instead, Vincent took it in stride, telling Spectrum SportsNet that he’s “just looking forward to competing” with this team.
“We play to win the game, and I want to do everything I can to help this team win, so I’m just looking forward to those opportunities,” Vincent said.
And on the other side of it, the gesture also pretty clearly meant a lot to Russell:
D'Angelo Russell on Darvin Ham, unprompted, naming him L.A.'s starting point guard last week:— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 2, 2023
"I appreciate all of that, honestly. Any words of encouragement from your head coach is always appreciated by a player ... (I) don't want to let him down."
D’Angelo Russell on returning to the Lakers: “They made me feel wanted”— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 2, 2023
And those two weren’t the only ones saying all the right things. To a man, all the Lakers asked said that they were ready to play whatever position or role the coaching staff determines is best for the team:
Davis said he and Darvin Ham haven't had an extended conversation yet about how much he'll play 4 vs. 5 this season, considering the additions of Christian Wood and Jaxson Hayes. Expect that he'll still play a lot of 5, as it gives LAL an advantage against many opponents.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 2, 2023
Rui on starting vs. coming off the bench: "Each game is different. Even last year, we changed a lot of starting lineups after I got traded. We just gotta adjust. For me, playing time is more important. I want to finish the game. Whatever the coaches decide, I'm here for."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 2, 2023
Jaxson Hayes says on @SpectrumSN that he "likes" that the Lakers signed another big in Christian Wood, who he calls "a good friend," because he didn't want him and AD to be the only centers.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 2, 2023
"Some games I might start, some games I might not, but I want to bring a lot of energy"
"Our group is a fun group, a lot of chemistry all throughout it... It's fun," DLo says.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 2, 2023
Vibes are good at media day.
Christian Wood says this "is probably his most motivated season since going undrafted" because of the "false narratives" about him.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 2, 2023
"I'm ready to prove a lot of people wrong."
Compare that last one to Wood’s 2022 media day with the Mavericks, which saw him reply to a question about his bench role with a sarcastic “this is my first time hearing about it,” leading to an equally sardonic public clap back from head coach Jason Kidd that started what was surely a great season for Dallas off on the right foo— ... oh, last season was terrible for the Mavs? Ah, that makes more sense.
None of this is to suggest that good vibes at media day preclude a good season. Everyone on the 2021-22 Lakers was in a pretty good mood, too, if memory serves. But it’s definitely better than the alternative, with clear discontent and impending infighting about roles or minutes seeping through every quote.
Saying the right things isn’t doing the right things, but it’s an upgrade on saying the wrong ones.
Rui Hachimura will play more 3 and Austin Reaves will play more 1... but not exclusively
Speaking of embracing playing multiple positions, on the basketball front, Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura both answered a few of the bigger X’s and O’s questions about how they’ll be used.
Reaves said that Team USA taught him to fight in anywhere, but that he may play a bit more lead guard this year, even with Russell and Vincent joining him in the backcourt:
Austin Reaves said he and Darvin Ham have had several conversations about him playing more point guard this season. Ham referenced using Reaves at point guard in certain lineups last week.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) October 2, 2023
As for Hachimura, for all the talk that he had slimmed down to play more three this season, he said on the Spectrum broadcast that while he knows “I need to play more (at the) 3 position,” he also said that reports of his weight loss were greatly exaggerated, and that he will likely play both positions:
Rui said he didn't actually really lose much weight this offseason, though he may be slightly more defined. There was some outside chatter of him slimming down, but he clarified that was only because there was a picture of him next to LeBron.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 2, 2023
So TBD if Rui will be starting at the 3, but not just because of how much he did or didn’t slim down. He also may have some competition, because...
Jarred Vanderbilt worked on everything you hoped he would
Jarred Vanderbilt’s role on this team is, in the words of my colleague Alex Regla, a bit of “a paradox.” He projects as the team’s best wing defender, but his offensive limitations from the postseason also showed why he may not be a reliable option in that setting.
But still just 24 years old and freshly extended on a four-year, $48 million deal, it at least sounds like Vanderbilt spent the offseason working on all the auxiliary skills that could make his contract ultimately look like one of the NBA’s biggest bargains:
Jarred Vanderbilt said he worked on shooting, finishing and ballhandling offensively, and his agility defensively to handle perimeter matchups.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) October 2, 2023
Can Vando morph into a willing, capable and league-average shooter, or at least become a good enough ballhandler and finisher to make teams pay for not paying attention to him? He’ll have to figure out at least one of those two groups to become enough of an offensive threat to be consistently playable in the postseason.
Whether or not he can do so will be one of the more interesting storylines to watch during the preseason and training camp as Ham and the coaching staff determine who the fifth starter will be alongside James, Davis, Reaves and Russell.
Did we miss anything you felt was a big deal? Let us know in the comments below, and for those of you who want to, you can watch all of the media day interviews in their entirety on the Lakers’ YouTube page to fully soak in the good vibes.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.