Youth and Chemistry
One of the criticisms of the Lakers over the past few seasons has been their lack of chemistry on the court. With nearly every player on the team on an expiring deal, the “me first” mentality started to creep in as the losses mounted.
That mentality doesn’t appear to be an issue this season. While there are still a number of players that are on expiring contracts, there is a concerted effort to develop a mentor relationship with the younger and older players. Kobe Bryant has taken D’Angelo Russell under his wing. Robert Upshaw has credited guards Lou Williams, Jabari Brown, Bryant, and Russell for helping him with his positioning on pick-and-roll situations, and of course Metta World Peace has been tutoring Julius Randle for most of the summer. With the youth movement in full swing (of the 19 players currently on the roster, 12 are age 24 or younger), that kind of positive learning environment will pay dividends not just for this season, but in the future as well.
For a Lakers fan base that has spent the past few years watching an aging club struggle to stay relevant, having a group of young guys who ooze potential and play within the team concept is refreshing. This camaraderie was perhaps best illustrated by Roy Hibbert’s involvement in the scuffle that Julius Randle got in with Jazz forward Trevor Booker:
Hibbert didn’t hesitate to step up and defend Randle, which speaks volumes about how this team supports each other. We will see whether this team-first approach continues when the dog days of January and February come around, but for now this Lakers group carries with it a very different vibe than last season’s.