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Five questions the Lakers face heading into training camp

Anthony Davis celebrates after the Lakers defeated the Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to clinch the 2020 championship.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers, defending NBA champions for the first time since 2010, have slowly fortified their roster through trades and free agency after the departures of several starters and key rotation players.

Gone are Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo. Joining the team are Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol through trades as well as Montrezl Harrell and Wesley Matthews via free agency.

The Lakers also re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jared Dudley, who agreed to terms Monday, according to people with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Here are five questions the Lakers face heading into training camp this week.

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When is Anthony Davis going to re-sign?

When the NBA’s free-agency period opened on Nov. 20, Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ vice president of basketball operations and general manager, accomplished some wonderful things to put the team in position to repeat — all except to get Davis back in the fold.

But, according to people not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, Davis and agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports are scheduled to meet with Pelinka on Tuesday to discuss matters.

The sort of contract Davis seeks remains a mystery.

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But the 6-foot-10 forward has plenty of options. He can sign a two-year contract with a player option for the 2021-22 season worth about $68 million. He can sign a three-year contract with a player option for the 2022-23 season for about $106 million. He can sign a four-year extension for about $146.7 million or a five-year deal for about $189 million.

Not one league executive believes Davis is going anywhere but the Lakers. It’s just that he’s taking his time.

Davis was a force for the Lakers during the 2019-20 regular season. He was first in scoring (26.1), rebounding (9.3), blocks (2.3) and steals (1.5) and third in assists (3.2). He was first in the playoffs in scoring (27.7) and second in rebounds (9.7).

So, yes, the Lakers have to get Davis re-signed.

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When the Lakers introduced Dennis Schröder on Monday, the veteran point guard said he wants to start alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It makes sense.

How will the Lakers handle LeBron James’ workload?

James abhors the phase “load management,” but will the Lakers and James have no choice but to hold him out of some practices and regular-season games after they finished last season as champions on Oct. 11?

When the regular season starts on Dec. 22, James and the Lakers will have been off 71 days. NBA finalists usually get about 100 days off between seasons.

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He takes great care of his body, but he turns 36 this month and is entering his 18th season. James has reached the NBA Finals in nine of the last 10 years.

James was as dominant as ever last season, averaging a league-best 10.2 assists, along with 25.3 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Then James raised his level of play in the playoffs, nearly averaging a triple-double with 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists. He had a player efficiency rating of 30.33 and was named the most valuable player of the Finals.

Still, with so little time to rest before starting the next season, James may have to take some games off to preserve his body so he can be at his best again when the games matter the most in the playoffs.

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Who will claim the other starting spots alongside James, Davis and presumably Caldwell-Pope?

Will Gasol or Harrell be the starting center? Will Matthews start at the wing or will Schroder start at point guard? Will Kyle Kuzma start at small forward, which is something he is yearning for?

In a way, it’s good for Lakers coach Frank Vogel to have these problems because it can make for great competition.

Schroder made it known during his media session Monday that he wants to start. He had been the backup guard the last two seasons in Oklahoma City.

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He averaged 18.9 points and 4.0 assists last season for the Thunder and was second for the NBA’s sixth man of the year behind Harrell.

“Yeah. Uh. I mean, I did this off the bench stuff already in two years with OKC,” Schroder said. “I think I try to move forward and I think with AD and LeBron, I can be helpful as a starter in the [point guard] position and LeBron don’t have so much stuff in his mind …”

A look at how the Lakers’ roster is shaping up during the start of free agency.

What kind of identity will the Lakers establish?

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The Lakers were a defense-oriented team last season.

They were fourth in points allowed (107.6), eighth in field-goal percentage defense (44.8%), seventh in three-point shooting percentage defense (34.9%) and first in blocks (6.6).

In the postseason, the Lakers were third in points allowed (106), sixth in field-goal percentage defense (45.3%), ninth in three-point percentage defense (36%), third in blocks (5.3) and third in steals (8.0).

It only figures that Vogel will stress defense again. After all, that’s what won the Lakers the title.

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How hungry are the Lakers to repeat?

The Lakers are loaded with talent one through 10.

They can play big and small. They can play with power and speed.

The Lakers will have to work on developing their chemistry with several new players on the roster, four of whom will have pivotal roles.


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