With less than a month to go until the new season opens, set for October 19, things will accelerate in the NBA, starting next week. It is indeed this Tuesday, September 28, that the « training camp » begins. A date synonymous with an informal resumption of the 2021/22 fiscal year.
And for the Lakers, who are meeting today in Las Vegas, at the request of LeBron James, this training camp will allow them above all to decide on the composition of their starting five. Because the Californian franchise, which has seen 12 new players (!) Land in its workforce this summer, is still in the dark at this level, and coach Frank Vogel intends to rely on the coming days to choose its holders.
» There are many possibilities, no decision has been made yet He announces in the “LakeShow” podcast. » People ask me all the time if [Anthony Davis] will start the meetings at station 5 or if we will rather associate two interiors, as two years ago. And, frankly, we still don’t know. We are going to watch everyone play during training camp and determine the advantages and disadvantages of each line-up, to find the one that will allow us to start the season in the best possible way. «
Focus on defense, around the « Big Three »
As it stands, only three members of Los Angeles are logically guaranteed to be titular: LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. Apart from this new “Big Three”, nothing is set in stone and players like Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore, even Kendrick Nunn or Malik Monk, all claim a place. in the five of « Purple & Gold ».
But before making his decision, Frank Vogel will first have to identify the profiles of those who will best join the James / Davis / Westbrook trio. With particular emphasis on the 3-point shoot and, above all, on defense. One of the main questions surrounding this 2021/22 workforce of the Lakers.
» We have good players and we also have efficient players on both sides of the pitch. « , However believes the coach of LA » They may not be defense specialists, but neither are they crippling. Everyone will have to defend on the opposing best striker, it will not be the job of a single defender. And what I like about this team is the size and the circle protection we have. So even though we lost Dennis [Schröder], Alex [Caruso], [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] and Wes Matthews on the away, we still have some catchy players in this area, with circle protectors behind them like two years ago, and I think that will be our strength. «
Talen Horton-Tucker expected in defense
Best defense in the league last season, with 106.8 points conceded out of 100 possessions, the franchise with 17 NBA titles is aware that the departures of Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and to a lesser extent of Dennis Schröder and Wes Matthews, were not fully compensated, despite the arrivals of Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore or Kendrick Nunn.
And in a team where the average age is over 30 years old, and which has focused above all on bringing back offensive creativity this summer, to support LeBron James and Anthony Davis, he is the youngest member of the effective, namely Talen Horton-Tucker, who could have his card to play in defense, and thus be more responsible.
That’s good: the 20-year-old back will be more expected than ever by his coach defensively, at the dawn of his third year in the league (already). All the more so with his recent contract extension.
» He’s gonna be challenged, he’s got the ability », Warns Frank Vogel in this regard. » It’s going to be an important season for him, in terms of growth. For the past two years, he was this young player who was gradually improving. There, without [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] nor Alex [Caruso], will he raise his level of play and fulfill this role of defender on the best opposing attackers? What you love about him is that he’s humble, he’s a sponge, and he always wants to improve to help the team. His attitude is good but he also has courage and great self-confidence. We think he will progress to 3-points and he will also have opportunities to weigh in defense, against great players. «
Anthony Davis sharp, Russell Westbrook hungry
But the former Pacers and Magic coach, champion from his first campaign in Los Angeles, can also count on the presence of Anthony Davis, second in the vote for the Defender of the Year 2020 trophy, in order to stay in the Top 3 of the best defenses in the league, as for two years.
At the end of a 2020/21 exercise rotten by injuries, both in the regular season and in the playoffs, “AD” finally had time to breathe and heal himself throughout the summer, to come back in better shape than never physically (and psychologically, since he got married last week). In any case, this is the opinion of Frank Vogel.
» He has worked a lot, a lot at home, physically, during this offseason. “, Delivers the technician of the Lakers. » About two weeks ago he came to train. It was the first time we had seen him for a while. And his body looked imposing. Then we all looked at each other and said, ‘We’re going to be really, really good this season. «
Add to that the arrival of a competitor like Russell Westbrook, alongside a particularly vengeful and sharp LeBron James, and you have a solid base to aim for a new title. It would be the 18th of the “Purple & Gold” and that would quite simply constitute a new record in the NBA, ahead of the Celtics (also 17th).
» It’s obviously very exciting to be able to bring back a player of Russell Westbrook’s caliber. », Says Frank Vogel. » You always want to have a strong punch, especially in the playoffs, because you need it. And he is the ultimate competitor, he wants at all costs to be in a position to win a title. It’s the only thing he hasn’t accomplished in his career and he’s in a position to do it. «