redemption imperative for Lakers and Nets


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Los Angeles (AFP) – Self-proclaimed candidates for the title, the Lakers and the Nets, have not lived up to their ambitions in the past two seasons, between injuries, lack of collective cohesion and game at half mast. Will they finally be?

. Lakers: gnaque, defense and health

Last year at the same time, LA was among the big favorites in the championship, with the recruitment of Russell Westbrook, record holder for the number of triple-doubles in the NBA. In the end, the 2020 champions did not even reach the play-offs.

The sauce never took, the MVP 2017, a real ball of energy on a parquet floor, struggling to integrate into a game project that quickly became stammering or even non-existent, and even being the subject of mockery for repeated blunders which betrayed an obvious malaise.

With his salary at $ 47 million per season, LA failed to sell him and at the same time recruited Pat Beverley, while the two players have liabilities. The latter, who also liked to poison the life of LeBron James when he played in the rival team of the Clippers, ensured that the hatchet was buried, even calling Westbrook « best friend » at the Lakers.

This relationship, for the moment all smiles, will have to pass the test of the field, because they will be competing for the position of leader. Unless Darvin Ham, inevitably under pressure for his first year as coach, decides to associate them … on the bench, in favor of the ghost Dennis Schröder. But the German has just injured his finger.

The new LA coach has nevertheless made defense his priority. In this regard, Beverley will bring her aggressiveness and toughness to a group that missed it a lot last season.

« Teams that know how to be a deterrent when necessary are the ones that win. If we defend well, if we force opponents to take difficult shots, if we limit their scoring possibilities, if we are present on the rebound, that will be on the path to success, » said LeBron James, on the eve of his 20th season, during which he could overtake the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer.

LA Lakers star LeBron James during a preseason game against the Phoenix Suns on October 5, 2022 in Las Vegas
LA Lakers star LeBron James during a preseason game against the Phoenix Suns on October 5, 2022 in Las Vegas Ethan Miller GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/Archives

At 37, however, his goal remains a fifth championship ring. For that, « the most important thing is to be available for the team, » said the 37-year-old superstar, who played only 56 of 82 games last regular season.

Even more than his leader, winger Anthony Davis has not been spared injuries over the past two years, to the point of having been criticized for his alleged fragility. He will have all the more things to prove as James has asked him « to take the reins in attack ».

. Nets: peace, unity and basketball

The summer was stormy in Brooklyn, after a very complicated season, between the non-vaccination of leader Kyrie Irving, which caused him to miss many matches, and the departure in February of fullback James Harden in Philadelphia, in exchange for Ben Simmons, without the latter playing a single match. Injured in the back, he had also pleaded mental incapacity resulting from a conflict of several months with the Sixers.

Frustrated, Kevin Durant then left to arm wrestle, claiming to be transferred, before agreeing to stay in Brooklyn, provided that the general manager Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash are ousted. None of this happened: just like Irving, coveted by the Lakers, « KD » remains a Nets player with whom he has never exceeded the Eastern Conference semifinals in two seasons.

« Can we move on? I know it’s an interesting story, drama sells, I get that. But I haven’t missed a game, I haven’t missed a practice, I’m still here, so hopefully we can get past that, » he said recently.

Brooklyn Nets winger Kevin Durant during a preseason game against the Bucks on October 12, 2022 in Milwaukee
Brooklyn Nets winger Kevin Durant during a preseason game against the Bucks on October 12, 2022 in Milwaukee Stacy Revere GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

« It’s okay … All families have problems. It happens, it’s a common situation in the league. But it’s behind us », played down Nash, who will be under more pressure than ever to finally build a collective performance and create a game identity.

If Irving and Simmons become full-fledged and successful basketball players again, his task will be facilitated, the workforce having strengthened little in the offseason, except by the arrivals of wingers Markieff Morris and Royce O’Neal, as well as the back TJ Warren.


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