The once-promising preseason campaign of the Los Angeles Lakers has gotten off to a rocky start. What began as a year full of hope and optimism has quickly regressed into a harsh reality as injuries and a slow start quickly popped the proverbial bubble.
A preseason opening win over the Denver Nuggets was followed up by blowout losses to the Golden State Warriors (twice) and the Utah Jazz, though LA was able to get a resounding come-from-behind win over Utah in their next matchup. With over a week to go before the regular season starts, here are three points to take note of as the team moves forward.
1. The (lack of) three-pointers.
The style of the play that Byron Scott has implemented is a stark contrast from last season. Under Mike D’Antoni, the Lakers last averaged 24.8 three-point shot attempts per game while training 38.1% of them. Those marks ranked 6th and 3rd in the league, respectively. Scott has made it known that he has a disdain for three-pointers and wants the team only attempting only 12-15 shots from long range per game as a team.
The problem is, the shots that they’ve attempted have been missing their mark. They’ve shot the lowest number of threes (42), made the lowest (10), which has put them in the cellar in terms of shooting percentage (23.8%). Went went 1-19 in one stretch, which included two games where they went 0-8. Without a threat from the outside, this inability to space the floor won’t give the team space inside to post up and attack the rim.
After leading the league in games missed due to injury last year with 319, the madness just doesn’t stop. Before even playing a single game, Nick Young went down with a thumb injury and will be out for around at least six more weeks. Steve Nash’s nerve problems resurfaced and it looks a walk on a tight rope when it comes to dealing with his injuries.
In addition, Jeremy Lin, Ryan Kelly, Jordan Clarkson, and Xavier Henry are all recovering from various ailments. As a result, Byron Scott’s rotation hasn’t been what he envisioned before the year, and it’s shown with their play. Ronnie Price has been the starting point guard, and camp invitees Wayne Ellington and Roscoe Smith have both seen extended minutes on the floor. The bright side, at least it’s still early, and one can only hope that the injury bug only sticks around for the preseason.
3. Kobe Bryant.
The hope that fans cling onto is that Kobe Bryant looks, well, like Kobe Bryant. While he hasn’t shot the ball efficiently, only making 37% of his shots en route to 17.4 points per game, he’s been moving extremely well. While lacking the familiar explosiveness to the rim that he’s demonstrated his entire career, you wouldn’t know that he’s someone coming off two major injuries in the past year. With more games under his belt, the offense will come with time.
While the blowout losses painted a momentarily bleak future for the Lakers, the truth is that there’s no reason to panic just yet. As time goes on and the team gets its rotation players back, there will be more fluidity and consistency to their game. And that feeling of hope and optimism that was present on media day will be back again.