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Lakers showing their age with 0-3 start

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The Lakers have started the season slowly, but the team’s top priority isn’t winning but developing the team’s young roster.

Is it a surprise the Lakers have started the season with three straight losses?

It shouldn’t be, although the Lakers gave away a winnable game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on opening night, blowing a double-digit lead.

The Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks were simply better, thus the Lakers’ poor start to the year.

At issue for the Lakers is age -- simultaneously too young and too old.

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In the case of rookie D’Angelo Russell, along with second-year players Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, learning how to compete at the NBA level is a learning experience.

Savvy veterans such as Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, J.J. Barea, Darren Collison and even Ricky Rubio know how to make the right plays at the right time. Outside of Rubio, who is still relatively young, Russell and Clarkson have brighter futures ahead as guards in the league.

Even after missing all but one game of his rookie season with a broken leg, forward Julius Randle has made tremendous progress -- even dating back to his inconsistent play in July with the Lakers’ summer league squad.

By and large, the Lakers’ prospects are still in the infant stages of their careers.

Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant’s age is showing in his 20th season. After the loss to the Mavericks, Bryant used colorful language to blast his own game.

While he’s still taking a high volume of shots, Bryant isn’t making many. He would be better served taking a step back, letting the team’s youth movement take on a bigger role -- a sentiment Bryant has explicitly agreed with, but may be struggling to implement.

Meanwhile, other rookies such as Jahlil Okafor and Kristaps Porzingis, whom the Lakers passed on to draft Russell, have started strong. Guard Emmanuel Mudiay (taken seventh by the Denver Nuggets) has been a mixed bag, putting up bigger numbers than Russell, but averaging more turnovers than assists while shooting 33.3% from the field.

In the case of Russell, the Lakers did not draft him with the second overall pick in June to be the rookie of the year, but to be the best player over the next five to 10 seasons.

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Russell simply isn’t physically mature yet, and while it’s certainly possible the team made a significant mistake in the draft, there is no way to ascertain that claim after three games or even three months of play.

All-Stars such as Stephen Curry and James Harden weren’t outstanding as rookies. Young players evolve at different rates, often slowly. Few come into the league a ready-made product like a LeBron James.

A suggestion to concerned fans, stop chewing on green bananas. The Lakers aren’t ripe yet. Enjoy the season for what it is, a year to develop players while saying goodbye to Bryant, who is likely to retire after 20 years as a Laker.

The win/loss column simply isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the top priority this season.

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus


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