Lakers’ trade deadline acquisitions make immediate impact in debut, but clock is ticking to salvage season

SAN FRANCISCO. It was 2018. The pandemic was still two years away. Black Panther was the #1 film in the country. And LeBron James just accepted a new batch of teammates after a flurry of activity from the Cleveland Cavaliers before the trade deadline.

Defeated the Boston Celtics 121–99 at TD Garden in the team’s first game after adding Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, George Hill and Larry Nance Jr. prompted James to exclaim afterwards“We’ve got a fucking squad now!”

Five years later, he didn’t make it that far with the fledgling Los Angeles Lakers’ 109-103 road win over the Golden State Warriors, but James, who was out with an ankle injury, was on the sidelines, cheering his new teammates, was certainly impressed.

“When I went out [of the game]Bron commented, “You know, we’re going to be really good,” Lakers forward Anthony Davis said after Saturday night’s win.

Indeed, the first outing of newly acquired D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt appealed to many whose names were scribbled in marker on pieces of sports tape above their lockers because the Lakers’ nameplates had not yet been made. in fact, Vanderbilt read JARRED VANERBILT, accidentally missing the “D” that the 6-8 hitter definitely brought onto the court.

As Davis put it, the trio stepped in and “did what we thought they were going to do”, with Russell scoring and playing (15 points, six assists), Vanderbilt providing energy, defense and rebounds (12 points, eight rebounds). ). four assists), and despite Beasley missing all six 3-point attempts, Beasley’s very presence opened the lane for teammates.

Not bad for a group that didn’t include LeBron and did just one 80-minute workout at the University of San Francisco to try and find common ground.

“We talked about it before the game – we use three words: energy, effort and urgency,” Lakers head coach Darwin Ham said. “That’s what we played tonight against a very, very, very great baseball club in Golden State.”

There were mistakes, of course. The Lakers went cold early on Beasley’s 39-percent three-point shot. Russell showed some of his defensive deficiencies: he was caught on a leak while Klay Thompson moved for a wide-open 3-pointer early in the first quarter.

And Vanderbilt — well, of course, Vanderbilt anything wrong in what looked like a perfect game from the stands.

Overall, it was exactly the kind of push the Lakers needed, and it was partly because Ham and his coaching staff had watched a lot of films about new players and contacted them to discuss team concepts and their individual likes and dislikes. dislikes.

“[Ham] “I was excited that I came out here and threw the ball,” Beasley told CBS Sports before the game. “He wants the floor to be a little bigger. So now I’m going to do my job and do it.”

The units also worked together on the defensive side of the floor – an impressive feat for a group that has never played together against a Warriors offense unlike any other team in the league. Some of the NBA’s best and most continuous defenses were torn to shreds by the Golden State’s fast-moving read-and-react system—even without Steph Curry—but the Lakers looked solid, holding them to 103 points, including just seven. in the last six minutes of the game.

Pinned in the center by Davis, who finished with three blocks, the Lakers defense showed the versatility and resilience that keeps Ham looking to the future.

“I think we can be the elite [defensively]”,” Ham said after the win. “Wendy, the way he rebounds, his activity, he can block shots. Venien [Gabriel] there were moments, blows, rebounds changed. Obviously AD, that’s what he does.”

That’s not even counting former Orlando Magic center Mo Bamba, another Lakers deadline acquisition that didn’t settle on Saturday because he’s still serving a four-game suspension for altercation with Minnesota Timberwolves guard Austin Rivers. With a record span of 7ft 9in, Bamba blocked 2.7 shots in 36 minutes during his five-year career.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks the Lakers’ new players won’t make them better. The front office has accomplished its mission of recruiting a capable roster around James, giving them a chance to make a splash in the playoffs – if they can get there.

As of Saturday night, the Lakers were sitting 26–31, tied for 13th in the Western Conference. The overcrowded nature of the West this season means they’re only four games out of fourth in the losing streak, but it’s still going to be a sharp turn for a Lakers team that has yet to play consistent winning basketball this season. .

With only 25 games left, they have 15-10 games to go if they’re going to get to .500 at all. A potential spot to play could require wins in two elimination games before even making it to the postseason. You never want to discount a team led by James and Davis that now seems to have a solid roster of role players, but that still requires a lot considering only Denver and Memphis play .600 in the West.

While other teams in the conference have been building continuity throughout the season, the Lakers must essentially start from scratch with their new group and hope they can come together in a very short amount of time. Saturday was a good step, but there is still some work to be done up the mountain.

“We have a few games left, it doesn’t look like we have the whole season ahead of us,” Russell said after the game. “So, it’s important to consider every moment, and I think that communication will smooth this process and make it efficient.”


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