In the 3rd quarter of last night’s preseason game, Roy Hibbert was slapped by Trevor Booker after getting in his face. Booker was ejected and Hibbert got a technical for being the third man in the altercation.
In the midst of the drama, the Lakers showed something they have not had in years; the ability and willingness to fight for each other. Julius Randle might not have gotten that assistance from Wesley Johnson or Jordan Hill last season. Hibbert has not played with Randle for years on the same team, but he is willing to defend anyone on the roster.
“We play together,” Hibbert said. “I’m not going to speak too much about that play. Like I said, he’s the face of this team for the future and, one through 15, I’d step up for anybody, anybody in the starting five to the guys at the end of the bench. We play as a team and I have everybody’s back.”
It is only the preseason, but this is already a different situation than January of 2014, Nick Young was suspended for hitting Goran Dragic and spoke candidly about how he felt like it was one on five during the scuffle. This is much better than the train wreck season that involved Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, a duo that showed palpable tension towards each other throughout the 2012-2013 season.
The team never looked the same after Kobe Bryant suffered the notorious Achilles tear that crippled the team’s chances of making it past the first round during the 2012-2013 playoff campaign. Howard rejected the Lakers and left in free agency, they also lost Pau Gasol in the following offseason. LaMarcus Aldridge was not impressed with the organization and the Lakers found themselves in new territory; irrelevancy.
The Lakers have a new foundation to build on. They also have the chance to make strides and regain their winning culture. The team is not a championship contender, but it can attain that with its vast potential on hand. It all starts with the team, actually looking like a real team.
The Lakers have many problems in their attempted return to the top. Rectifying the locker room and building a real team culture not filled with toxic contracts and players alike is a major step in the right direction.