Lakers' Early Season Identity
If the Lakers sought an early-season identity, they found one in Texas, of all places.
In case a come-from-behind overtime win in Dallas wasn’t enough, a hang-on-tight victory came 48 hours later in San Antonio.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis were undoubtedly the backbone of it. That’s no longer surprising. Their games complement each other perfectly, leaving it to The Others to fill in the cracks if wins are to come substantially more often than losses.
The contributors Sunday in San Antonio were a revelation. Truly.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit two big shots in the final minutes, pulling out of an immense early-season slump in which he’d missed shot after shot.
He was understandably smiling while waiting patiently for reporters to talk to him at his locker, a hefty chunk of time passing after they first huddled around Davis and James.
Pope wasn’t the only one Sunday to make sure the Lakers (5-1) didn’t completely blow a 16-point lead.
Dwight Howard didn’t miss in seven attempts against the Spurs and was a force defensively, dare it be said, yet again.
He is becoming a very real part of the plan. And his contract isn’t even fully guaranteed until January.
With expectations so low when he signed in August, Howard has drifted toward the top of the Lakers feel-good list six games into the season.
“Game after game he’s making big plays,” Davis said.
Almost lost in the shuffle are the two guys who are supposed to make the big plays.
James, for his part, unfolded two triple-doubles to become the first Laker to do it consecutively since Lamar Odom in 2006.
If he needs added incentive in the Lakers’ next game, Magic Johnson was the last Lakers player with three consecutive triple-doubles. In fact, he had four in 1987.
James is healthier this season, and so is his defense. He got introspective while talking about both Sunday after finishing a game-high plus-15. He also led the Lakers against Dallas with another plus-15.
“Playing with a torn groin last year — even when I came back it was still partially torn — it was difficult to be able to move and shift like I’m capable of doing defensively,” he said. “I love being challenged. Coach challenged me, AD challenged me. I challenged myself.
“I put a lot of hard work into my off-season getting my quick twitch, getting my bounce back, getting my speed back, my reaction time back.”
The rest of the league has noticed.
Meanwhile, Davis seems happy so far in his new environs.
It didn’t take him long to realize he was no longer in New Orleans, whether it was the snarls on the 405 or the gigantic media throngs awaiting him after every game at Staples Center.
After the Lakers beat San Antonio, Davis reclined in front of his locker with a sense of, shall we say, contentment?
Perhaps it was the way the Lakers handled adversity since their opening-night loss to the Clippers. Or the way he’d seamlessly brought his well-rounded game to Los Angeles. Or, on this night, maybe the simple knowledge he was on his way home, in a very real sense.
The Lakers play in Chicago on Tuesday, and Davis pledged to spend most of Monday with family and close friends in his hometown.
The ticket requests will surely pile up between now and tip-off. Like he cares. He’s putting up great numbers, the Lakers are atop the Western Conference and there’s no end in sight to a run that could last a while.
When will the Lakers not be favored in a game? They’re at San Antonio again Nov. 25, and if not there, then…Dec. 3 in Denver? Dec. 19 in Milwaukee?
That’s a long time from now. The NBA world will be watching, as always.