The Los Angeles Lakers have lost three games in a row, have four players and their head coach in the NBA’s health and safety protocols and are still reeling from the news that Anthony Davis is expected to miss at least a month with a sprained MCL in his left knee.
As the team tries to weather the maelstrom of maladies it is facing, former league MVP and nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook has taken it upon himself to try to pull them out of it.
However, acting head coach David Fizdale — filling in for Frank Vogel while he is recovering from COVID-19 — said the Lakers don’t need Westbrook to ride up on his white horse and play the hero. They just need steady play out of their point guard.
“I think the circumstances over the last few games, with so many people being in and out, triggered in him that he had to save us,” Fizdale said on a video conference call with reporters after practice Wednesday.
While Westbrook has averaged 21 points, 9.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.0 steals in the two games since Davis got injured, he’s also averaged 6.5 turnovers.
The turnovers trip up the Lakers on both ends, taking away potential scoring opportunities on offense and putting their defense in compromising positions with the opponent attacking in transition.
Fizdale stressed that while Westbrook might be pushing the issue, the entire team has been contributing to the recent miscues.
“Some of his plays, he was probably moving too fast or trying to press when things aren’t there,” Fizdale said. “And again, these are things that we [addressed]. We had a great film session. Guys are very open and receptive and we just talked about connection things. How do we [get this right?] OK, instead of this play, what can we do within our offensive fundamentals to lead to a great shot for us? How do we use your talent that draws all of these players to make sure that that leads to a great shot for us?
“And so that’s what the whole film session was about offensively and again, a lot of this stuff is connection.”
Lakers forward Trevor Ariza said Wednesday’s video breakdown was helpful as L.A. looks to right the wrongs from the past three losses to Minnesota, Chicago and Phoenix in preparation for Thursday’s home game against the San Antonio Spurs.
“Personally, just seeing my spacing and things that I can do better to give our guys more space, help them out. Defensively, some of my techniques, my angles I need to change, to get it right so I can be a bit better on the defensive end,” Ariza said on a video conference call when asked for specifics that were pointed out on film. “But yeah, it’s direct. It’s efficient. We need that since we don’t have a lot of practice time.”
And the Lakers don’t have a lot of certainty about where the season goes from here. After the Spurs game, they are scheduled to host the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day. The Nets had their game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday postponed by the league because so many Brooklyn players are in protocols.
“You’re just taking it and living day-to-day, you just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Carmelo Anthony said on a video conference call Wednesday. “We could wake up tomorrow morning and they could say our game tomorrow is canceled. … Again, we don’t know what’s gonna happen, so we’re taking it day-to-day and we’re just trying to stay on top of what we need to stay on top of.
“But as we can see, it’s affecting everybody. It’s affecting a lot of different people, people who are vaccinated, people who do have boosters, so you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”