Hey everyone, it’s beat writer Dan Woike, and welcome back to the latest edition of the Lakers newsletter at a time when the important folks at the LA Times allow me to recommend you listen to a song because they’re too busy to check it. if the lyrics are inappropriate.
We have a new team, a new sense of urgency, and a new round of hope, so I thought today would be a good time for some quick and random thoughts on the Lakers and their remaining schedule.
All things Lakers, all the time.
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1. There is no chance of the Lakers winning against the Warriors on Thursday with LeBron James and Anthony Davis struggling had the team not made the Russell Westbrook trade. His inability to carry the Lakers’ roster when Davis and James had slow nights—or when they were hurt—was the defining failure of his time with the team.
2. That being said, the factors that are there for the Lakers now, like better depth and more shooting couldn’t have existed with Westbrook on the roster, his $47 million price tag fits their salary cap just as badly as he did with their stars.
3. Darvin Ham and Davis were among those who were quite chill 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 trying to figure things out with Westbrook – and be free of it – than personal issues.
4. At one point this season, people within the organization were complaining about the team’s attempts to add shooting – i.e. Reggie Bullock, Mike Muscala, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Matthews, etc. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be an issue with Malik Beasley.
5. Beasley has already made 15 three-point shots in four games, including an 0-for-six start in his debut.
6. I reserve the right to argue that the Lakers’ great win against the Warriors could ultimately say more about Golden State than about the Lakers.
7. The numbers I keep hearing from the Lakers when it comes to internal projections are that the team would have to finish the season around 42-40 to feel like it has a shot at the No. 6 spot, and the play-in- tournament avoids.
8. The schedule is kind enough. After a three-game trip, the Lakers will play 10 of their next 12 games at home.
9. Even though this is much more of an NFL thing to do, when you look ahead at the Lakers’ schedule you can sort games into three categories: should win, could win, probably won’t win.
10. I have them, as of today, with 11 games they should win, eight they could win, and three they probably won’t. Obviously you won’t win all the games you should or could, and you might steal one you shouldn’t.
11. Here’s a quirk: The Lakers are scheduled to play four games on Sunday, typically something players hate because it breaks their typical routine.
12. One little thing I’ve noticed is that new players like Beasley and Mo Bamba have been doing laps around the locker room saying goodbye to everyone in the room before leaving. The team tries to build chemistry quickly and everything helps.
13. With D’Angelo Russell questionable Sunday in Dallas, I’m curious to see how Dennis Schroder and Jarred Vanderbilt can defend against Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic, respectively. The Lakers used Patrick Beverley on Doncic in the past (and sent double team after double team after him).
14. Ham’s first message is that his star players will later be available for back-to-back matches. The Lakers have three, including two in the next 10 games. The final back-to-back set comes in April against the Jazz and the Clippers, and the playoff picture could be clearer by then.
15. Speaking of cheating, I asked Ham about lineups and stability pregame Thursday because it felt like the lineup shuffle was over. Then Russell was injured when he rolled his ankle on an inbound pass and the team will use another start five on Sunday in Dallas.
16. It’s hard to explain, which almost makes it silly to talk about it, but “the vibe” around the Lakers has just been so different this past week.
17. Kudos to Lonnie Walker IV. Now out of the Lakers’ rotation, he has played late in each of the Lakers’ last two wins, making six of 11 shots. There is a good chance that the Lakers will need him again for an extended period of time 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 wider than they used to be, but they’re not That wide.
19. The other factor I’m going to be watching closely is the emotional stamina of the Lakers. Twenty-two games is one hell of a sprint — the words of Warriors coach Steve Kerr — and every loss and setback will feel magnified with so much on the line. The Lakers were far too emotional and reactive before the trades. Can they keep their spirits up when things are undoubtedly going to get tough here in the last six weeks?
Song of the week
“Sow the seeds of loveby 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 struggles, Lakers lean on depth and defense to beat Warriors
Plaschke: The re-energized Lakers 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 hard
“We have to win:” The revamped Lakers are pushing for a spot in the playoffs
LeBron James on Lakers trades: ‘We did a really good job’
From the start of LeBron James, rivals saw him fall off the charts