5 Things

In-laws are in town and they took Sydney out for a walk so I could sleep in a bit. Slept until noon. Feeling good, especially after a tough Laker home-win against the gritty Kings from Sacramento. Unheralded stars abound in the game which saw star player Anthony Davis return to the hardwood after resting his ribs and shoulder.

1) Camaraderie. It’s not the noun I expected to tag the Lakers with this early but there you have it. On a team comprised of a lot of players who had never played on the same team before donning the purple and gold, with a superstar that bulldozed his way here as if he were abusing a defender in the paint for a dunk and with an ex-superstar that had played his way off of every team over the last few years the issue of chemistry seemed to be large one as we entered the season. Fast forward to now and I think we can all agree that, even though there will be adversities yet to be encountered, this is a team that has come together very, very quickly. Credit their professionalism, credit the pre-pre-season Las Vegas mini-camp LeBron organized, credit coach Vogel and his staff but the bottom line is this is a tight bunch with laser-like focus on the ultimate goal and one or two bad games from any individual or overall poor team showing is not going to derail that goal.

2) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Also known as The gateway to LeBron. KCP has shown flashes of being a solid NBA player here and there throughout his entire NBA career. Tonight was one of those games you wish he could bottle and take a swig from every night before a contest. Regardless of how any of us here feel about Mr. Pope he got it done tonight in a big way. 16 points on 6-10 shooting (3-5 from three point land with his last bucket providing some space in the clutch) with 3 boards and a steal it looked like KCP was destined for another low minutes-played game early when coach Vogel yanked him for Caruso just a couple of minutes into the game. Tonight, in the 4th when it mattered, Pope rose to the occasion.

3) Next Man Up. While it was Kentavious who came up the biggest from the guard position on a night where we learned Avery Bradley would be out for an extended period, we also got some help from everyone in the front court. Whether it was Quinn Cook’s off-balance bank shot, Rondo doing his Rajon thing (although his silly foul near the end of his minutes could have loomed large had we lost), Danny Green hitting early shots or Alex Caruso’s continued all around hustle and effort the front court did enough in this game to help eke out the win. Stats wise it doesn’t look pretty. But that only tells a portion of the story. The overall impact they had on containing Buddy Heild, Corey Joseph and Bogan ‘Laker Killer’ Bogdanovic was instrumental in the getting this W.

4) That LeBron James guy is pretty good. It’s getting kind of easy to forget how good The King is at playing basketball. He’s really, really really good. Last night he was perfect from the stripe to bump his FT% back up over 71% (had dipped into the 69 percentile and was looking more like last year’s struggling at the stripe LeBron) and did his normal ’20+ points, 10+ assists, boarding as needed, just me leading my team like I do’ LeBron James type thing. He’s scoring at his normal, elite rate while dishing a career-high and NBA leading 11.4 assists per game. He’s playing the kind of defense and leading in a way that you’ve seen him do on championship squads. Best of all, he’s just a lot of fun to watch play.

5) Coaches battle. I am and have always been a Luke Walton fan. From his rookie year right up to today the only thing that made me question said fandom was the allegations of inappropriate sexual misconduct. That cloud still hangs over him for me, despite the NBA and the Sacramento Kings saying there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue charges But now that he’s not a Laker I’m back to rooting against him. Last night I thought Luke’s final play was another instance of Luke out-smarting himself. As we all saw on more than one occasion Luke can draw up an overly thought out play rather than just let the hot hand try and make it happen. Bogdanovic was on fire and looked like he was ready to can another 3 to win a game against us. Instead he drew up a fake to Boggy and sent Harrison Barnes into the paint to try and go for an easy 2 and get into OT. Anthony Davis made a game-saving block. One wonders if there will ever be a modification to the coaches challenge rule to force a review on a play in the final minute to determine whether a foul should have been called when one was not. Currently the challenge can only be used to question whether the foul called was, indeed, a foul. AD’s verticality was questionable on the play (his arms come forward on the shot attempt and he makes contact with Barnes’ arms on the release) but the play was ruled clean and that’s how it’ll go down in the history books. In a game where we shot 22 free throws to the Kings 9 we denied them at the rim on the final play. Game: Lakers.