Lakers have been in fine form during the scrimmage games and here we see what we learnt from their games ahead of the Bubble restart vs Clippers.
When the NBA was tipped to return after a four-month absence, one point of concern was how ready will be the players and teams would be. By all logic, players should be out of shape and their timing should have been rusted beyond repair. Now with the wrapping up of the scrimmages, it’s safe to say that we will be witnessing NBA caliber basketball and not a collegiate level.
Some teams have stars recuperating and others getting acquainted with this new scenario but the quality of the effort and basketball play shown at the scrimmages proved one thing that there won’t be any need to put an asterisk mark against the champions or to question the decision of having the bubble in the first place.
The Lake Show has been in full flow and apart from an insignificant loss to Dallas in the first scrimmage or losing AD to an eye injury in the second there have been a lot of positives and few blips. Below are the five of the biggest takeaways from this weekend’s slate of exhibition game for Los Angeles Lakers –
Ready for a party on Waiters Island :
The Dion Waiters story keeps on getting interesting. From a lottery pick in Cleveland to becoming a journeyman to getting benched at Miami Heat. People have forgotten that he can ball and ball he did in the three scrimmages. There is a party going on Waiters Island. The Lakers’ answer to Lou Williams, dropped 12 fourth-quarter points on Saturday to follow up a stellar debut on Thursday and capped it up with an impressive playmaking outing on Monday.
Dion Waiters enters game for Lakers.
Less than one minute later: pic.twitter.com/y1gbkh1roc
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) July 23, 2020
Those points didn’t come on a fluky heat check, either. The physicality and ball-handling Waiters has displayed in a Lakers uniform so far have been absent from their bench all season long.
Also, the PNR ball handling he showed against Wizards would give Vogel one less thing to worry about. Every team needs one such player who can create his own shoots. The Lakers have scored a paltry 105.2 points per 100 possessions in those bench minutes this season, but if Waiters looks like this when the real games start, their greatest weakness will have been fixed.
Waiters’ ball-handling and shooting were a major positive and If Waiters can match Rondo’s ball-handling while providing superior shooting and a bulkier defender, the Lakers may be on the way to solving their bench offense problem.
JR Swish Smith is Back Baby!
Nobody expected JR Smith to be his old self from the jump and the rustiness was evident in the first scrimmage. He hasn’t played in an NBA game since November of 2018.
He has only been a Laker for a few weeks, and still getting used to learning the playbook but as he said after the first scrimmage the way Vogel has designed the playstyle it’s easy for anyone to come and plug right in.
JR Smith is lighting it up from deep 🔥 pic.twitter.com/Fs9ffKutbs
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 27, 2020
That was proven in the last scrimmage as he got his game legs back and went on a swishing spree. This is what he has been brought in to do. To get the Lakers buckets when it’s not possible and get hot from the word go.
Smith is a lottery ticket and his shooting stroke is a delight for old school basketball followers. If he is able to give Lakers 1-2 games like the final scrimmage, he would have justified his bubble presence.
Kyle Kuzma is a legit threat
Kuzma has had an up and down season. From missing the pre-season camp to getting gauged in the eye which ended his most consistent run. He has all the tools to be s viable third option and has shown when AD or LeBron has missed game time. People forget how he torched Clippers’ defense on the Christmas day matchup.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 25, 2020
He rebounded well, shot well in the second scrimmage and his shot looks much better than it was before the COVID break. He is s rhythm player and playing alongside LeBron should help him in the playoff to get that rhythm going. Some work still needs to be done on the defensive end but the energy and playmaking he has added would hold him in good stead during a deep playoff run.
LeBron is still the best player in the game
The King showed in the scrimmages that he hasn’t lost a step. And playoff LeBron is rested and hungry this time. James has been realistic about his title window which is getting shorter by the day. When AD came, he ensured that the narrative is set that the offense would flow through AD and not him, making Brow feel important and wanted.
James spends the majority of his time on defense at or near the baseline, typically in the corner on a lesser assignment as his primary role in the Lakers’ scheme is to serve as a help defender.
Lakers vs. Clippers: 9:00pm/et Thursday on TNT! pic.twitter.com/8d5iBCHMpA
— NBA (@NBA) July 29, 2020
That gives him a clear view of practically the entire court, which allows him to essentially quarterback his defense in the way he does his offense. LeBron’s IQ stood out and the way he managed his troops, calling our plays for them and of opponents was a spectacle.
When you listen to them, you understand his greatness. It’s just a reminder that LeBron is one of the smartest basketball players ever and that he should be appreciated while he’s still at his apex.
The Lakers have all the pieces fitting correctly and fulfilling the puzzle that Vogel has created and its left to be seen how it unfolds when the seeding games begin and in what state the team is come playoff time.