Bresnahan: Best and Worst of the Lakers
The past weekend went beyond a subtle reminder, more than a gentle tap on the shoulder.
It showcased the best and worst of the Lakers in only 24 hours.
They won easily in always-tricky Charlotte as LeBron James and Lonzo Ball became the first Lakers in 36 years with triple-doubles in the same game.
Then they got snowed over by Washington as John Wall hit them for 40 points and the weak-rebounding Wizards dominated the boards.
The two-day incarnation of the Lakers proved two things: They've come a long way since an ugly 2-5 start and have a ways to go to be mentioned optimistically in the same sentence, if not paragraph, as Golden State.
The hustle they showed in Charlotte was quickly replaced by fatigue in Washington as Coach Luke Walton acknowledged he didn't see the “proper energy” required to win an NBA game. It didn't help that flu-stricken center JaVale McGee joined a growing list of ailing Lakers.
The Lakers got beat by a stellar backcourt (not necessarily unexpected) and one of their former second-round picks (fully unexpected) as Wall and Bradley Beal did their thing while Thomas Bryant set a career-high with 11 rebounds.
As revenge games go, the Lakers went 1-1 over the weekend: Charlotte General Manager Mitch Kupchak couldn't get a victory against the franchise that employed him in various ways for 35 years but Bryant secured one against the team that waived him in July.
Funny thing, though, the Lakers don't care about revenge games in December. They're more interested in these things in June (see Celtics-Lakers, 2010 NBA Finals).
The good news for the Lakers is a roster about to get restocked.
They have to survive Tuesday's road game in Brooklyn — not a devastating request but not a guaranteed victory either — before returning home to possibly welcome back Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram.
After Tuesday, Rondo will have missed 17 games because of a broken right hand. Ingram will have missed eight because of a sprained ankle.
No official word has been released yet but both could play against New Orleans after staying in Los Angeles for doctors' appointments, rest or rehab, and more doctors' appointments during the Lakers' four-game trip.
A credible job has been since Rondo went down, a 10-6 record complied without one of the Lakers' more importance on-court voices.
He wasn't missed in Charlotte, though, as Ball and James created one of the cooler headlines of a still-young NBA season.
“He was my idol growing up. Then we both get a triple-double in the same game,” Ball said. “I don’t even know if I dreamed of that before.”
Kyle Kuzma continues to impress with his growth on offense. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has quietly put together a solid few weeks, including 25 points against Washington. Above all else, James has been as advertised despite a quiet 13-point night against the Wizards.
The Lakers have straightened out early-season problems at Staples Center and are treading close to .500 on the road (7-8 after losing to Washington).
If nothing else, they're entertaining. There have been several more wins than losses. They currently hold a top-four position in the more-packed-than-ever Western Conference.
Soon there will be many more healthy than unhealthy players, perhaps just in time.