LeBron James might have had a great debut with the Lakers this past week, but the Lakers didn’t show up as well. LeBron began his debut with two incredible dunks over the course of 19 seconds. So why wasn’t the team able to keep up? If you didn’t see the game, the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakes 128-119 at the Moda Center. But does this make a difference? Of course, but maybe not in the way you think, as it was a road game for the Lakers, which gave Portland a home court advantage. LeBron was asked how long it was going to take for the Laker’s chemistry to develop, and his answer was “not as fast as you guys think it’s going to happen”.
He’s not wrong, but is there more to it than just chemistry? James poured in 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists, but he watched the Lakers miss their first 15 3-point attempts, surrender 14 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points and lack cohesion on both ends of the floor at various moments. The Lakers also showed flashes of promise, especially with their pace, as they outscored the Trail Blazers 34-12 in fast-break points. Six Lakers also scored in double figures.
But as I said, LeBron’s debut with the Lakers was on fire. The Lakers led by 10 early, and LeBron’s first basket came after he stole a pass from Jake Layman and then soared in for an uncontested breakaway power jam with 9:21 left in the first quarter. Less than 20 seconds later, James came through the lane to throw down another rim-rattling dunk. This is what we all expected from LeBron though. I guess many of us weren’t really sure how the team was going to do though. There are times when LeBron is able to carry his team, and he’s proven this time and again, but why couldn’t he this time?
Some of the issues might be around who is supporting LeBron. In Cleveland, the Cavaliers surrounded LeBron with shooting specialists. But in Los Angeles, he’s surrounded by good ball handlers. The Lakers opened the game by missing their first 15 3-point shots before Josh Hart (20 points) made the team’s first bucket with 2:22 left in the third quarter. Hart, who also hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer, helped the Lakers finish 7-for-30 from behind the arc.
All that said, the Lakers management feels like the team has enough shooters with people like Hart, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma all expected to improve their shooting game this season. But let’s hope Thursday night’s statistics are contained to Thursday. 0-for-15 is maybe as bad as it can get. But can the Lakers improve?
Lakers coach Luke Walton tried a variety of lineups in the season opener, using LeBron at one point with the four one-year Lakers signings of Rondo, Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee. Walton also had LeBron play alongside the four Lakers prospects of Ingram, Kuzma, Ball, and Hart. I think it’s going to take some time for this team to really start to gel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. While it’s early on in the season, they do need wins to get them to at least the playoffs. If they can’t make it that far, then a lot of people are going to be questioning a lot of things in Los Angeles.