For the Los Angeles Lakers, this was the start people expected them to have when LeBron James decided to join the team. They had started 2-5 but have won 15 of their last 21 games. Just like in Lebron’s first year with new teams like the Heat in 2010 and the Cavaliers in 2014, it included an 8-7 start. Those teams would reach the NBA Finals and lose both. It’s been a process for the young Lakers squad trying to get used to playing with LeBron. As a result, some had to change their roles. But this has been the best Los Angeles have been in a long time after being in the basement dweller for the past five years. Let’s look at the highlights of the first quarter of the season for the Purple and Gold.
LeBron James Impressing In His First Year As A Los Angeles Laker
The elephant in the room is the best player in the world right now. When James decided to take his talents to Hollywood on July 1st, it would change the NBA landscape again. He continues to show that he isn’t declining anytime soon. James is the league’s third-leading scorer with 28.4 points while shooting 52.6% from the floor. He is averaging 7.6 rebounds and seven assists per game showing demonstrating his all-around game. The King has had some great performances like scoring 51 against the Heat, 44 against. the Blazers and 42 against the Spurs. Also, he’s averaging 8.3 points per game in the fourth quarter, which is second in the association.
However, the downside is that LeBron isn’t very good at the foul line shooting only 68.9%. It doesn’t help that he gets the calls he deserves. He still controls the ball most of the time because he’s the Lakers number-one option. James is playing 35 minutes a night despite the Lakers plan to reduce his playing time to save him for the postseason. He’s showing that he can handle the workload with his great work ethic and dedication.
The second-year youngster out of Utah is following up on his superb rookie year. This past summer, Kyle Kuzma trained with the great Kobe Bryant to continue to add to his game. So far, it has been working out as the results are showing for him. He has had some big scoring nights since he got into the starting lineup like his current six-game streak of scoring 20 or more points. As a starter, he’s averaging 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists a contest.
Kuzma is showing that he can be a great fit alongside LeBron. He’s improved in every facet like catch-and-shoot, playmaking and defence. Also, he’s taken advantage of his opportunities while Brandon Ingram is out of the lineup. The offseason with Kobe is starting to pay off in a big way. No question that if Kuzma improves, he can be an All-Star and a star in this league.
The Acquisition of Tyson Chandler
At the start of the season, the Lakers struggled with their interior defence and rebounding despite picking up JaVale McGee. McGee as a backup centre is having a career year and helping a team that was one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Then, they signed veteran big-man Tyson Chandler after he was waived by the Phoenix Suns. Chandler has made a big impact for the team in numerous ways. For example, he had the game winning shot on Trae Young against the Atlanta Hawks.
He has a tremendous IQ and is another vet that brings experience to the young guys. Chandler’s small numbers (3.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in 21.1 minutes a game) may not stand out but his activity level has been very valuable. He has played in crunch time in the fourth quarter in multiple games because of his ability to protect the paint and rebound. What a luxury to have the former Defensive Player of the Year on your team coming off the bench.
More Additions to the Roster?
Los Angeles is also looking to make more moves to add to the roster. There have been rumours that they might acquire Trevor Ariza from the Suns for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. However, Ariza was traded to the Washington Wizards. He played for the Lakers from 2007 to 2009 while winning a championship. Ariza would’ve brought his toughness, versatility as a strong wing defender and three-point shooting.
The Lakers are now looking at getting Wayne Ellington of the Miami Heat and/or Terrence Ross of the Orlando Magic. LA is currently ranked in the middle of the pack in three points shooting at 34.9%. If either Ellington or Ross is added, they can be great additions as they lack depth among the wings. The Lakers would be willing to trade vets like Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Rajon Rondo and/or Ivica Zubac to get those guys. They aren’t getting rid of the youngsters unless they get a superstar talent in return.
The Last Word
The Lakers can be the second best team in the Western Conference with King James leading them. However, there’s that team in Northern California called the Golden State Warriors that they have to get through to reach their destination. James knows this team very well after playing them in the Finals the last four years while with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But who knows, maybe the Lakers will put an end to Dub Nation’s dynasty and be champions again.
Embed from Getty Images