Hi, this is Dan Woike, Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, here with your Lakers newsletter.
On one hand, it feels like it was just a few days ago when I walked into Staples Center for opening night, the empty building barely pulsing while the Lakers and the Clippers took the court to open the season.
It wasn’t yesterday. It was like 30 yesterdays, with the season hitting the one-month mark on Friday.
Sample sizes are never big enough when you want to make proclamations, but we’ve seen the Lakers take the court 15 times. And in this abridged season, that means we’ve already seen more than 20% of the season unfold.
Have we learned anything yet? I think so.
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If Anthony Davis is going to win the MVP, he’s got to get going.
It’s hard to be too critical of anyone’s start on the Lakers. The team has the best defense in the NBA and the top net rating — massive accomplishments considering their offseason break was the shortest.
But if we’re going to nitpick — and being the MVP of the league is a hell of a standard — Davis hasn’t quite gotten on track yet.
His minutes are down — the result of the Lakers’ being conservative and a handful of blowouts, but he’s not been as effective a scorer because of his shot selection. Davis is taking a higher percentage of mid-range shots than he has since 2016.
It’s no coincidence that he’s taking almost three free throws fewer per game.
And while he’s firing a higher percentage of shots from deep, the volume is actually a tick lower than it was last year.
The idea was for Davis to take more threes (the hope is that he’d be taking up to five per game), and since he’s been patrolling mostly in the deep midrange, he’s taking relatively inefficient shots.
He’s an incredible shooter — no face up shot from his is a bad one. His passing has been incredible, and the Lakers’ defense takes its cues from him.
But for him to push himself to the front of the MVP pack, he needs more explosive nights, more plays at the rim, more trips to the free-throw line and more aggression from three-point range.
He’s battled some injuries, he’s working himself into form and he’ll get going. He’s too good not to. But Davis has already had seven games where he’s scored less than 20 points. Last season, he only had 14.
To be MVP, he’ll need to be better than he was last year. And so far, that’s not happened.
The Lakers’ depth is real.
The team has to be happy with the play of its non-superstars. Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and more have been hugely important on offense.
The team leads the league in charges drawn, Alex Caruso is shooting the lights out and they’ve got a wildcard in Talen Horton-Tucker just waiting for an expanded opportunity.
The depth hasn’t been needed much so far, but in a pandemic season, you know that’s coming at some point.
The Lakers seem ready.
The schedule has been really favorable.
Some quick notes on this:
The Lakers have beaten Memphis without Ja Morant (twice), San Antonio without LaMarcus Aldridge (twice), Houston in the middle of a chemistry meltdown, Minnesota without Karl Anthony-Towns, Chicago without Lauri Markkanen and Dallas without Kristaps Porzingis.
Against teams with a top-15 rated offense, the Lakers are 1-2 (the lone win coming against the Bulls). Against teams in the bottom 15? The Lakers are 10-2.
You can only play the teams that are on your schedule, and you should never apologize for taking care of short-handed teams. But things are going to get tougher.
They have to.
Did you sign up for Full-Court Text? Did you register for our watch-a-long party Thursday at 4:30 for Lakers-Bucks?
Song of the week
The Lakers’ next seven games will be away from Staples Center, with the team still undefeated on the road.
Seems fitting that this week we honor that with a killer live band, Future Islands, who perform with Montrezl Harrell-ish energy every time they take the stage (as a bonus, check out this clip of them on Letterman).
With games in Milwaukee, Philly and Boston, let’s see if the road still looks so beautiful in a few weeks.