When looking at the Los Angeles Lakers’ schedule on paper heading into the season, one would be inclined to believe the Lakers, though a young team, could start fast.
Filled with a number of easier matchups through the first 15-20 games, it was not all that foolish to think the Lakers could snag a fair share amount of those games before they consistently start playing the upper-echelon teams of the Western Conference.
But now, it’s foolish.
Los Angeles fell to 0-4 on Tuesday night, courtesy of a 120-109 loss to the Denver Nuggets. Three of those four losses came against teams that were among the seven worst in the NBA last season.
Simply put, there aren’t many positives to takeaway from the Lakers so far this year. Here’s what stuck out in tonight’s loss.
The Aggressiveness of Youth: The 2014 draft class for the Lakers has looked fantastic for the most part. Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson look to be legitimate core pieces for the Lakers moving forward. Tonight was no different.
Clarkson tied a career-high with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting, while Randle poured in 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Both were efficient scoring the ball tonight, making up for just about everyone else in that department. Each player could have played better in other areas of the game, but were the clear bright spots for Los Angeles in what was another frustrating defeat.
Sweet Lou: 24 points on four made field goals. That was the line for Lou Williams, who struggled from the field, but was effective offensively just by getting to the free throw line 19 times. He has a knack for drawing fouls, but getting a handful of Nuggets players to foul you on three-point shots is next level. As a scorer, when your shot just isn’t falling, the best thing you can do is get to the free throw line. Williams seems to have that part figured out.
Remember me?: For much of the preseason and the first three games of the season, I was wondering if Byron Scott forgot who Tarik Black was. Black has spent most of this season sitting on the bench while Scott has elected to, for some reason, go with a Ryan Kelly-Brandon Bass front court duo. I have said this once and I will say it again: Those two should never be on the floor together.
In 18 minutes, Black tallied seven points (three-of-five shooting) and eight rebounds. Him not getting minutes up until this point was baffling, considering he is a noticeable upgrade defensively and on the glass than both Kelly and Bass. From now on, let’s hope that when either of those two are on the floor, they are paired with Black.
Oh, Byron: Remember when it was all Mike D’Antoni’s fault that the Lakers couldn’t defend or win games? Funny how things have not gotten any better in either of those categories since he left.
Once again, the Lakers could not stop a nosebleed tonight. If we asked Scott, it would probably be because his players are “soft.” But maybe — and I might be reaching here — it was because his best defensive player and rim protector, Roy Hibbert, played a whopping 17 minutes. The only acceptable reason for him playing limited minutes is foul trouble. But guess what? Hibbert had two fouls tonight. TWO. There is absolutely no defending that decision. None.
Oh, and in case you have lived under a rock for the past six months, the Lakers were fortunate enough to have the second overall pick in the NBA Draft. They used that pick to draft what they hope to be the next member of a long lineage of great point guards to don a purple and gold jersey: D’Angelo Russell.
Russell struggled to knock down shots tonight, resulting in just seven points. But he showed on numerous occasions what his passing, vision and ability to create can do for this team, notching six assists. The problem? He played 20 minutes and had as many in the second half as he tallied in the assist column tonight. Lou Williams played 33 minutes and closed the game out with Clarkson.
Just a little tidbit of knowledge for you, coach: Russell and Williams can be on the court at the same time.
The fan base is livid with Scott, as they should be. Mike Malone, head coach of the Denver Nuggets played his rookie point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, 31 minutes. He also was on the floor down the stretch (six minutes in the fourth quarter to Russell’s zero), while D’Angelo watched from the opposing bench.
Most fans agreed that the Lakers were not going to be a very good team this year because their youth needs time to develop. And that’s perfectly fine, because the team is in the middle of a rebuilding process. Losing games is one thing. Doing it while your hopeful franchise point guard sits and watches instead of gaining valuable on-court experience? Inexcusable.
When asked after the game how he could possibly get on the floor to close out the game? Russell stated, “I have no idea.”
Nice job, “coach.”