With the preseason set to begin tonight as the Los Angeles Lakers head into action against the Utah Jazz with the teams in Hawaii (Stan Sheriff Center), it is probably a good time to take a look at what a successful camp and overall preseason might look like. The team remains upbeat and seems to share a somewhat encouraging level of confidence and chemistry for a group that has only been in camp for about a week.
Signs of a definite camaraderie were already evident with the younger players during Summer League, but there was even a sense of a shared focus, drive and overall optimism throughout the team when LakersNation.com was able to catch up with the players during last week’s Media Day.
“I think we’re very optimistic here, and we look forward to the challenge,” reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams told LakersNation.com. “Obviously, this team hasn’t went to the playoffs in two years, but they’ve dealt with a lot of injuries and a lot of youth. You bring in some veteran leadership [Williams (himself), Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass], everyone is coming into camp healthy; so like I said, I’m very optimistic and look forward to the challenge.”
Brandon Bass and Tarik Black were among others that echoed similar sentiments, but the overwhelming message left from Media Day was a collective feeling of optimism. Beyond putting together a diverse blend of youth and veteran players, the front office should also be commended for finding a nice “mix” of players and personalities that genuinely appear to to enjoy playing with and for one another; a bit of a welcomed surprise at such an early stage.
Black, in particular, discussed just how connected this group is and how much the younger players have benefited from battling against some of the vets at the practice facility throughout the summer.
“[Metta World Peace] is cool, he’s cool,” Black said. “Honestly, it seems like he’s done it [coaching/mentoring] before. He has a passion for working with young guys and helping them reach their potential…We had all guys that paid attention to him every time he had something to say. We soaked it in, we’re sponges. Us young guys, we’re trying to get after it. I know our vets want us to.”
Part of the reason why the World Peace signing was so low-risk, high reward is exactly what Black mentioned. When you have so many young and unproven players trying to adjust to life in the NBA both on and off the court, you can never have too many veterans on hand to not only pass on their basketball knowledge and tricks of the trade, but to also condition the younger players to avoid some of the pitfalls that can also come with suddenly being on such a grand stage and in the constant spotlight. It is very promising that such an “education” has already commenced over the course of the summer.
The focal point of camp, much like what you’d hope would be the main focus throughout the season, should be upon developing these young players both on an individual basis as well as teaching them how to be successful members of a collective effort. That aspect — transitioning from being the “man” on a team throughout most of their playing careers to an effective contributing component — may go overlooked by some, but is absolutely vital when trying to put together a successful team. This group, while very confident, doesn’t appear to have an issue with conflicting egos and agendas. We can’t stress enough just how much of an advantage that can give an emerging group; especially if they maintain such a connectivity.
The preseason is generally where veterans work themselves into the type of playing shape the regular season requires while young players take advantage of the last time they’ll be able to string together so many crucial practice sessions prior to the unrelenting physical and mental demands of an 82-game season.
In terms of actual expectations, more than anything, you simply want to transition into the regular season relatively unscathed. Russell appears to have already adapted to the foot discomfort, but you’d really like to see the team shake some of the ‘bad juju’ that has plagued them in recent years when it comes to injuries as the team enters the regular season.
Overall, it’s great to be at a place where we have a majority of positive vibes and storylines surrounding the team. After a few seasons of futility, drama and disappointing injuries, it comes as a much-welcomed return to relative normalcy for fans of the team.