After the Lakers lost to the Clippers in their season opener, LeBron James was asked about what issues the loss revealed that the team would have to address.
“There are issues?” James said. “You don’t have issues after one game.”
The Lakers then rattled off six victories. Losses breed concern and victories breed increasing confidence. From the outside at least. After the Lakers’ lost to the Clippers, observers discussed what was wrong with them. After six straight wins, the shortcomings become less important. But fixing those shortcomings will be imperative to their season goals.
Their league-best six-game winning streak doesn’t mean they are perfect. As the Lakers go through the season, they have vowed they won’t rest on their laurels.
“All the success I have in this league, I’m still not complacent, I’m not satisfied,” James said. “We won’t lose that.
“We’re a veteran ball club and we won’t have a lot of practice time where we can get up and down and be banging physical contact and stuff of that nature. In the film room, when we had shootarounds, we have an opportunity to still get better from a mind perspective. When our minds are engaged I think the bodies will fall into place. I won’t let us get complacent no matter if we’re winning or losing.”
Winning often causes teams to become complacent.
Although coach Frank Vogel feels that the Lakers are ahead of where he thought they’d be defensively, he acknowledges they have a long way to go to reach their potential.
“Every game is going to have different challenges and that’s what we have our depth for,” James said. “There’s going to be games where obviously me and AD are staggered.”
Vogel has talked about wanting to play either Davis or James most times in games. In Tuesday’s game he was forced to work in other ways. James needed a break and the Lakers reserves carried the game.
But the Lakers have showed other flaws in their opening games, too.
Their starts have ranked among the worst in the NBA. The Lakers’ offensive rating has been the second-worst in the league in first quarter this season.
That has changed as the games have progressed, but it has offered examples of what needs to work.
On the other hand, their defense has been stellar.
Before Tuesday’s game against the Bulls, the Lakers had the best defensive rating in the NBA. Led by a coach who prioritizes defense and players who value that part of the game, they’ve embraced that as their identity.
After giving up 112 points to the Bulls, the Lakers dipped to second in defensive rating to the Utah Jazz, but just barely. Despite their success defensively, Vogel sees room for improvement, as do the players.
“The things that we’re doing wrong are correctable on our end,” Davis said. “So we just got to keep getting better and better and watch film, learn from it and each day, each practice get better on the defensive end. We work on it all the time — do a better job of containing the ball, do a better job of taking one-on-one matchups more personal and not let guys beat us off the dribble. And also defensive rebounding. I think we were one of the bottom teams in defensive rebounding so we want to improve that.”