Things are never as easy as media pundits make it out to be. The Los Angeles Lakers experienced that first hand during their 116-109 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in their season opener on Tuesday night.
Entering the season, the Lakers entered as the clear favorites to win it all this season. According to Odds Shark, they’re at +190 odds, by far and ahead of the next team, the Brooklyn Nets, who currently hold +550 odds.
While observers went crazy over the Lakers’ active offseason, they forgot to mention two things.
For one, the Clippers are still a darn good team and they illustrated once again why they represent the Lakers’ biggest threat towards repeating as NBA champions.
Secondly, while the Lakers’ offseason was full of glitz and glamour in making big additions such as Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroder, the team is severely lacking in certain areas. More specifically, guys that can dominate the boards and simply keep up with opposing bigs.
It’s something that yours truly brought up just weeks before the Lakers’ season opener.
Even though this was just one of 72 regular season games — and it is true the Clippers dominated in a similar fashion in the season opener versus the Lakers last year — this is a wake-up call.
No, the Lakers aren’t going to just run through a packed Western Conference all because they had the best offseason on paper.
And yes, the Lakers are going to go through complacency issues as they look to win another title again this season and look to incorporate new key pieces into the rotation — four, including Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews.
Due to the offseason departures of key veterans Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee, the Lakers plugged in two of their shiny new pieces in the starting lineup— Schroder and Gasol — and the unit looked worse as a result.
While Schroder had a nice stat line — 14 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists — he was a minus-10 in 27 minutes as the team’s starting point guard.
Remember, the 27-year-old only started two games last season as he finished runner-up in Sixth Man of the Year voting. For his seven-year NBA career, Schroder has started just 177 of 496 career games.
Due to the Lakers’ lack of depth at the point guard position, Schroder will likely remain the starting point guard for the near future. And as productive as he is in a scoring role off of the bench, he has yet to excel over a long duration in a starting point guard role in a distributor role. Remember, the Lakers already have LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma and Harrell as go-to scorers.
Meanwhile, Gasol was even worse — not a surprise considering his age and how flat-footed he is at this stage of his career — finishing as a minus-8 in just 12 minutes on the floor.
The stats between both sides looked rather even — with little disparity in field goal and free throw percentage — and the score doesn’t look too bad at final glance. However, this was an all-out domination game by the Clippers. They never trailed a single time in this game and it never truly felt like it was the Lakers’ to win.
This game felt so out of reach that James sat out the last eight minutes of the game.
The star power on the Lakers is at a peak; but the actual personnel doesn’t automatically equate to a title.
With Green and Rondo out of the picture, who are the Lakers going to rely upon to guard Paul George and Kawhi Leonard? We saw how much of an issue the perimeter defense was for the Lakers in this game, with Paul George scoring 33 points on a ridiculous 13-of-18 efficiency from the field. Kuzma and Matthews never stood a chance.
Again, this is not an overreaction. Although the tone might indicate that it is.
This is merely pointing out that titles are not won in the offseason; the Lakers are going to have to claw their way through a rugged Western Conference that is better and more motivated than it was last season.
Heck, the Lakers may not even be the title favorites in their own city.