Lakers begin process of breaking down their many problems

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) stands next to forward Anthony Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Lakers forwards Anthony Davis, left, and LeBron James stand side by side as they catch their breath during the second half of a loss to the Suns on Friday night at Staples Center. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

There was a lot to go over Saturday, so coach Frank Vogel and the Lakers spent much of a precious day off in the film room, dissecting another loss that exposed the team’s early season frustrations and failings.

They saw the defensive miscues and the offensive gaffes, the missed rotations and the missed layups. They saw the mistakes that are to be expected when a team has undergone major changes.

And they saw their heavy-legged roster fail to make enough hustle plays.

“We have to continue to build our conditioning so the extra effort plays are more prevalent,” Vogel said. “There were some great effort plays that really energized the group, but not enough of them. And too many plays where an extra effort could’ve changed the outcome that we didn’t make.

“But I think it’s early in the season and we’ve got a veteran group that is still getting their legs under them.”

Critics of the Lakers’ roster often pointed to the seeming inevitability of injuries. Yet in an effort to protect their team’s legs, the Lakers may have made things tougher on their veterans after a mostly quiet slate of preseason games.

None of this has the Lakers panicking, though — not even the shoving match between Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis during Friday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns.

“It’s over with and we move on to the next game,” Russell Westbrook said, adding that the incident wasn’t spoken about during Saturday’s practice.

Guard Rajon Rondo had little to say about a run-in with a courtside fan. Video appeared to show Rondo making a gun with his thumb and fingers and gesturing to the fan.

Rondo said that wasn’t the case — that he was only pointing. The fan was ejected after he pushed away Rondo’s hand. The NBA is investigating the incident.

“It doesn’t really matter what he said. He didn’t threaten me. I didn’t threaten him,” Rondo said.

Ideally the Lakers would be devoid of this drama and able to deal with their growing pains while starting out with a pair of wins. Instead, Vogel’s had to gather information as to why the team has lost and looked disjointed and frustrated.

It’s why nothing, including a starting lineup, is finalized the Lakers forced to judge which mistakes are part of a normal process and which are fatal flaws.

“What I’m trying to evaluate is the areas that are bad — a lot of them are correctable in terms of execution with that group … that group [could] be more successful,” Vogel said, adding that the issue is “more than just like fundamentally they don’t fit together because of whatever skill set — shooting, size, like, speed.”

“You look at them sort of separately. And right now it feels like our execution for the details of our defense, in particular, can really be a lot better.”

Westbrook ready for struggle

Westbrook rebounded from his forgettable debut to play much better in his second game with the Lakers, finishing an assist shy of his first triple-double with the team.

The Lakers were plus-4 in the plus/minus category during his 35 minutes.

“Guys are figuring out how to run with me and play a little faster,” Westbrook said. “I’m figuring out how to do other things and moving off the ball and doing things I … kind of gotta figure it out, like we’re all adjusting to one another. And that’s a process. That’s not gonna happen in the first week of the season. We understand that, at least I do. I’m OK with the struggle of figuring it out and making sure we are putting ourselves in the position to do the right things so that ultimately at the end of the year we can be playing our best basketball.”

UP NEXT

VS. MEMPHIS

When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330

Update: The Lakers have one final chance to get a win at home before heading on the road for the first time, where back-to-back games in San Antonio and Oklahoma City await them Tuesday and Wednesday. They take the court after a bad performance against the Suns in a playoff rematch, needing to use the energy they had in a modest fourth-quarter comeback much earlier. The Grizzlies will be on the second night of their own back-to-back games after playing the Clippers on Saturday.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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