No time to panic after Lakers’ 0-2 start, or is it?

Lakers coach Darvin Ham puts his right arm around the shoulder of guard Lonnie Walker IV as he offers him encouragement.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham offers guard Lonnie Walker IV encouragement during the team’s loss to the Clippers on Thursday night. Walker led the team in scoring with 26 points.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Hey, everyone, it’s Dan Woike and welcome to this week’s edition of the Lakers newsletter. I’m going to pull back the curtain a little and try to better explain to you what I make of all the bad basketball I’ve seen since the Lakers started playing games on Tuesday.

Maybe I should know better

I had a reader email me regarding my game story Thursday night saying I was a little too harsh, that the gap between the Clippers and the Lakers isn’t that wide because, hey, look at the score, 103-97. The gap wasn’t that wide!

Inside the Lakers locker room after the game, more than one player expressed that sentiment, citing that two more made three-point shots out of more than 40 attempts and the Lakers probably leave the court with a win.


Maybe the reader was onto something.

In the moment that night, I definitely was more focused on what the Lakers aren’t than what they are.

I think, for starters, the team should be really encouraged with the defensive effort and energy they played with against a bigger, deeper and more skilled opponent. They forced 21 turnovers, got into transition and scored easy buckets using their athleticism.

“Our ballclub is our ballclub. I’m definitely not going to sit here and harp on what we can’t do every single game. That’s not a leader,” LeBron James said. “What I know we can do? We can defend our ass off. We did that tonight, which gave us an opportunity to win and we just couldn’t make it happen.”

He’s not wrong — the Lakers had their chances to win Thursday against the Clippers and they almost made it happen despite another miserable shooting night — 33 of 94 from the field (35.1%), including nine of 45 from long range (20%).

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I spoke to some scouts who either attended or watched Thursday’s game, and the Lakers’ competitiveness was definitely a talking point, their fight leaving many impressed.

Yet despite the positives taken from the game, I keep coming back to a few key points. The Lakers were less talented, not as deep and less skilled than the Clippers. It’s inarguable. The Lakers’ lack of size on the wing will be an issue all season, even if it only was marginally one on Thursday.

The effort and fight the Lakers showed Thursday? It’s a tall ask to seek that kind of intensity every night, particularly when your best player is in his 20th season. Ideally, you’d like to see skill and shot-making carry a good chunk of wins. All-out effort shouldn’t be a must on a nightly basis, because, like coach Darvin Ham says, the season is a marathon.

And if you need to run as fast as you can right out of the starting blocks, you’re not going to be able to reach the finish.

Shoot your shot

Three reasons not to panic about the Lakers’ shooting:

  • The shot quality has been really good. Instead of viewing that as a negative (man, they can’t make the open ones, even!), there is a belief that if the looks remain at a quality level, it can make bad shooter closer to average and average shooters closer to good.
  • Confidence is a heckuva drug, and Ham’s confidence in his team is real.
  • It’d be hard to be worse, right?

OK, so maybe those aren’t great reasons … so I guess panic?

Song of the week

“Gravity Rides Everything” by Modest Mouse

I’ve been on a really big Modest Mouse and Spoon kick lately, and this song feels like the perfect soundtrack to the Lakers’ rocky shooting start. The twangy guitars, the tempo changes, it all sort of seems off. Unlike the Lakers in their first two, eventually, this all comes together and makes sense.

In case you missed it

Lakers takeaways: Shooting the three-pointer is not a recipe for success

Plaschke: Lakers need to trade Russell Westbrook now. Enough is enough


Lakers ride Big 3 in opener, but struggle from deep in loss to Warriors

Lakers-Warriors takeaways: LeBron James explains why Lakers can’t make three-pointers

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook had plenty to say after Lakers’ loss to Warriors

Lakers’ Russell Westbrook says coming off the bench ‘absolutely’ led to groin injury

Anthony Davis wants to make sure ‘Street Clothes’ nickname no longer fits this year

Until next time...

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