Hey everyone, this is beat writer Dan Woike, and welcome back to the latest edition of the Lakers newsletter at a time when the LA Times bigwigs allow me to suggest you listen to a song because they’re too busy to check if the lyrics are inappropriate.
We have a new look team, a new sense of urgency and a new round of hope, so I figured today would be as good a time as any for some quick and random thoughts on the Lakers and their whereabouts make schedule.
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1. There’s no chance the Lakers will beat the Warriors on Thursday as LeBron James and Anthony Davis struggle if the team hadn’t made Russell Westbrook’s trade. His inability to lead the Lakers roster when Davis and James were having bad nights — or when they were injured — was the defining failing of his time with the team.
2. That said, the factors that now exist for the Lakers, like better depth and more perimeter shooting, couldn’t have existed with Westbrook on the roster, his $47 million price tag fitting their salary cap as poorly as it did with theirs stars.
3. Darvin Ham and Davis were among those who were rather cool when asked about Westbrook’s fit with the Clippers, and both generally wished him well without elaborating. I think it speaks more to the stress of working things out with Westbrook — and being free of it — than to personal issues.
4. At one point this season, people within the organization bemoaned the team’s attempts to add shooting – ie Reggie Bullock, Mike Muscala, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Matthews, etc. It doesn’t seem like there will be a problem with Malik Beasley.
5. Beasley already has 15 three-pointers in four games, including a 0-on-6 start on his debut.
6. I reserve the right to suggest that the Lakers’ blowout win over the Warriors might end up saying more about Golden State than the Lakers.
7. The numbers I keep hearing from the Lakers when it comes to internal projections is that the team would have to finish the season 42-40 to feel like they had any shot at the No. 6 and the play -in tournament to avoid.
8th. The schedule is friendly enough. After a three-game trip, the Lakers are playing 10 of their next 12 games at home.
9. While this is more of an NFL thing, looking at the Lakers game schedule, it can be broken down into three categories: should win, might win, probably won’t win.
10 I’ve got them as of today with 11 games they should win, eight they could win and three they probably won’t win. Obviously, you’re not winning every one you should or could, and you might steal one you shouldn’t.
11. Here’s a quirk — the Lakers are scheduled for four Sunday games, which players typically hate because it breaks their typical routine.
12. One small thing I noticed is that new players like Beasley and Mo Bamba made laps in the dressing room to say goodbye to everyone in the room before taking off. The team tries to build chemistry quickly and everything helps.
13. Given D’Angelo Russell’s dodgy Sunday in Dallas, I’m curious to see how Dennis Schroder and Jarred Vanderbilt will defend against Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic respectively. The Lakers have a history of using Patrick Beverley against Doncic (and sending double-team after double-team on him).
14 Ham’s early word is that his star players will be available for games on consecutive nights at the track. The Lakers have three, including two in the next 10 games. The final back-to-back set comes against the Jazz and the Clippers in April, and the playoff picture might be clearer by then.
15 Speaking of tricked, I asked Ham about lineups and stability Thursday before the game because it felt like the lineup shift was over. Then Russell was injured when he rolled his ankle on an inbound pass and the team will field a new starting XI in Dallas on Sunday.
16 It’s hard to explain, which makes it almost silly to discuss, but “the vibe” around the Lakers has just been so different over the past week.
17 Kudos to Lonnie Walker IV. Now outside of the Lakers’ rotation, he has played late in each of the Lakers’ last two blowout wins, making six of 11 shots. The odds say the Lakers will need him back for long stretches sometime this season.
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18 With all the roster improvements the Lakers have made, it still comes down to how healthy and productive James and Davis can be. The margins for error are greater than they used to be, but they are not The broad.
19 The other factor I’ll be watching closely is the Lakers’ emotional endurance. Twenty-two games is one hell of a sprint, in the words of Warriors coach Steve Kerr, and every loss and adversity will feel magnified when so much is at stake. The Lakers were way too emotional and reactive before the trades. Can they keep their nerve when things are undoubtedly going to get difficult here in the last six weeks?
song of the week
“Sow the seeds of love‘ by Tears For Fears
Who knew my favorite Beatles song was actually written and recorded by Tears For Fears?
In case you missed it
While LeBron James is struggling, the Lakers are leaning on depth and defense to defeat Warriors
Plaschke: The Lakers with renewed energy suddenly look like a playoff team
Lakers Warriors Takeaways: Austin Reaves, Malik Beasley make their mark
The 5 Lakers Storylines: The road to the postseason is short and difficult
‘We’ve got to win:’ The revamped Lakers are pushing to secure a playoff berth
LeBron James on Lakers Trades: “We did a really good job”
From the start, LeBron James’ rivals saw that he had slipped off the charts