The Lakers are a new team, with a new coaching staff and a new system, and getting off to a quick start to their new season is almost a necessity in their quest to win an NBA championship.
A slow start would spell trouble in a Western Conference that shows signs of being unforgiving with a number of talented teams.
So when the Lakers open training camp Saturday, they will focus on each detail that will be key to their success.
“I hear a lot of people talking about how you don’t want to get off to too good of a start and you want to peak at the right time and whatnot,” first-year coach Frank Vogel said Friday at the team’s media day. “And the management of the season, in terms of keeping guys mentally fresh and physically fresh going into the playoffs, is something that’s going to be in the front of my mind throughout the season.
“But, we’re trying to win every game we play. We’re trying to win opening night. We’re trying to win the first 10. We’re trying to win the first 20. And if that leads us to a strong start, then so be it. We’ll sustain it while making sure that mentally we’re staying fresh and physically we’re staying fresh, so that we’re at our best going into the playoffs.”
The Lakers began last season 0-3. They were 11-9 after 20 games. Though injuries played a major role in the Lakers missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, losing games early played a part as well.
The early schedule this season is somewhat favorable for the Lakers following a season-opening game against the Clippers on Oct. 22 at Staples Center.
Eleven of their first 20 games are at home, and 12 of them are against teams that had losing records last season.
Their first trip outside of Los Angeles takes the Lakers to Dallas, San Antonio and Chicago. Only the Spurs had a winning record last season.
Then the Lakers play six of seven games at home, the lone trip being to face a Phoenix Suns team that’s one of the few squads in the West not expected to compete for a playoff spot.
The Lakers then travel to face rebuilding Oklahoma City and Memphis before going to San Antonio and New Orleans for Anthony Davis’ first game against the Pelicans since he was traded.
The Lakers wrap up the first 20 games against Washington and Dallas, two teams that were below .500 last season.
The start to the season could be challenging for the Lakers because they return just six players. They also play two exhibition games in China and that might interfere with their development as a group because of less practice time while out of the country for a week.
“Our approach is how we approach every day. We have to try to maximize each and every day, and it starts with [Saturday], our first day of practice [and] our first day of training camp, how we get better,” LeBron James said Friday. “It’s going to be a process for us.
“We ultimately know what our goal wants to become, but you can’t shortcut the process. And if we come in every day, learn from our coaching staff, learn from each other [and] get to know one another … We have a new team, we have a few returning guys, but we have a lot of guys that wasn’t a part of the team last year. So chemistry and camaraderie and togetherness and how fast we can become a team by not shortcutting the process, that’s what it’s all going to be all about.”