In the Lakers’ media day as well as the initial post-practice interviews, the most prevalent theme in everyone’s words was “sacrifice”. Now, evidenced by some pictures and videos shared by the official Twitter/Instagram of the Lakers, a new theme seems to be sweeping through the players’ and coaches’ statements.
That theme is “energy”, a fitting theme in the first week of practices that any of these players (aside from Carmelo Anthony) have had with one Russell Westbrook (quote from Jacob Rude of Silver Screen & Roll).
“That’s what I bring to the table,” Westbrook stated about his energy after one of the team’s first practices, “It’s one of my things that I take pride in, making sure that each and every night I bring energy and effort and speed and pace, and alongside that, I make sure that I can continue to bring those guys along and help them along the way.”
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 2, 2021
It’ll definitely be nice to have Westbrook’s energy all season long after last year’s Lakers looked like they were having as much fun as Dennis Schröder reading bag-fumbling jokes at times. However, it’ll be just as important they continue to get that high energy as the rest of the preseason and training camp rolls on. Westbrook may not know how it was in the practice facility before last season’s Lakers started the year, but LeBron James knows. To that point, LeBron had the following to say (h/t Jacob Rude/Silver Screen & Roll).
LeBron said the energy is higher this preseason than last year
"Last year, coming off the bubble, it literally took everything away from you. Any little bit of energy we had, it was gone when we left there."
— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) September 30, 2021
Frank Vogel also shared LeBron’s opinion that practices have had some high energy, even calling that energy “off-the-charts good” after their final practice before their first preseason game this past Sunday (h/t Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll).
In a perfect world, every team’s best player (this could probably be said about all sports) is an extension of the head coach. I’m assuming LeBron’s voice is hoarse from so much communication to his brand new teammates that don’t know Frank Vogel’s system on either side of the ball. The offensive end may be a little simpler for the new players to learn, especially when you consider the fact that Vogel has preached that he wants them to be the best fast-breaking team in the NBA. There’s nothing simpler in an NBA offense than getting out to run. It’s the defensive end that’s going to be tough for the Lakers. LeBron can only do so much talking until he either loses his voice completely or the new guys don’t get enough of it down before the season starts. Even worse, both could happen!
Much has been made about the fact that the Lakers replaced great perimeter defenders in Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with players like Russell Westbrook and Wayne Ellington who both have played poor to downright awful defense over the past couple of seasons. However, if everyone buys in and brings intensity, focus, and (you guessed it) energy to every practice between now and the start of the season, the Lakers could probably still have a great defense.
Anthony Davis, the anchor of the Lakers defense for two seasons now, seems to agree with my thinking saying outright they’ll have a great defense due to the “defensive-minded guys” they have on the team. That’s nice of Davis to say about guys like Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker, and others, but the fact of the matter is that this team has made a shift towards the offensive side when you take inventory of everyone from the top of the roster to the bottom. It won’t be easy or fun to replicate the number one rated defensive rating they had last season.
You know what is fun? Grabbing a rebound, quickly outletting it to your point guard while everyone else puts their heads down and sprints, and then one of those lucky runners slams home a dunk that sends the home crowd into a frenzy.
You know what isn’t fun? Knowing what defensive rotations your teammates on the strong side will make so that you make the smartest rotation on the weak side.
Honestly, just typing that last sentence made me want to fall asleep.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 30, 2021
Whether or not the Lakers come close to finishing first in defensive rating this season, it’s great to hear about all of the high energy in these practices so far. Sure, it’s easy to have insane energy when everything is fresh and new. It’s also easy to have when most of your players are buddies, as LeBron, Westbrook, Davis, and even players like Carmelo Anthony and DeAndre Jordan have relationships with each other that span years, even a decade in some cases. However, LeBron did note that this training camp is a stark contrast in the energy department, as the Lakers hopefully are directing that high energy into the focus needed to iron out the kinks in this brand, spanking new roster.
If they continue to keep it up, then these Lakers may come running out of the gate once the season starts.