The Lakers played six games here in the NBA’s preseason. They lost all six. They will, to borrow a cliché, still start the season at 0-0 next week, but certainly a zero-win slate to this date is cause for concern. Right?
Well, leave it to Russell Westbrook to offer some perspective there. When Westbrook was asked about the winless preseason after Thursday’s loss to the Kings, he shrugged.
“Honestly, I can’t tell you—I’ve been in the league 13 years,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know my preseason record for any of those years. So, that should answer your question. I don’t know anything about preseason. So, no, it does not matter.”
The Lakers did not have their full complement of players during the preseason, as only three Lakers—rookie Austin Reaves plus veterans Rajon Rondo and Kent Bazemore—played in all six games. Westbrook and fellow star LeBron James played in three.
Westbrook found some comfort in how the team played from night to night.
“We got better each game,” Westbrook said. “I feel like we got better each preseason game, obviously getting all guys healthy is the most important, keeping us healthy throughout the year. I’m just encouraged by how each game we’ve gotten a little better.”
Western Conference Coach: ‘There Is a Lot to Clean Up’
Not everyone agrees, however. One Western Conference assistant coach who scouted the Lakers through the preseason raised a red flag about the team’s lack of defensive cohesion.
“You don’t see a lot of communication, which is expected when you have this many new players,” the coach said. “But you also saw a lot of confusion, so that it makes you wonder, who is going to take the reins defensively for that team? They don’t seem to have a hierarchy there, where one guy is barking everything out.”
The Lakers allowed 109.0 points per 100 possessions in the preseason, 23rd in the NBA. The offense, for what it’s worth, was worse, at 95.8 points per 100 possessions, 26th in the NBA.
“They are not quick,” the coach went on. “I think you see a lot of slow close-outs, a lot of guys getting lost on cuts. That might be a season-long problem. They gave up a lot of open looks. They will put a lot of pressure on Anthony Davis to protect the rim. Plenty of time to clean it up of course but there is a lot, a real lot, to be cleaned up.”
Lakers Cleaned up the Defense in the Fourth Quarter
Westbrook noted that the Lakers did, in fact, improve during the game Thursday night, giving up 35 points in the first quarter, and only 24 in the fourth. 0
“That’s how we gotta play,” Westbrook said. “The first quarter we gave up 35, 36. During the fourth quarter, we did a better job. That’s what we’ve got to lean on because when we get stops we are very difficult to stop in transition. It’s just learning. Everybody’s learning the defense, so we kinda gotta learn our tendencies, learn each other, learn kinda what we’re doing. In the process of that we’ve got to make sure we stay consistent to our rules, stick to them and when we need to make an adjustment, we will.”
They did not do so all that often during the preseason. They will get a chance to start fresh on Tuesday—but then, there will be no clean slates after that.