Lakers newsletter: Max Christie showcases the strengths of the team’s systems

Lakers guard Max Christie defends against Portland guard Justise Winslow.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Hey everyone, Dan Woike here with another Lakers newsletter, where we’ve tried our best to explain the mostly unexplainable — the 2022-23 Lakers. With the team heading toward the trade deadline next month without any real answers (or any real clear path) thanks, in part, to a series of injuries, we’re going to use this space for a small bit of big-picture optimism.

Set up for success

Forty minutes or so before the Lakers played Denver on Monday night in Colorado, rookie Max Christie found out he’d be getting the first start of his NBA career. Naturally, he texted his mother.


“Catch me in the starting lineup,” he wrote.

It was maybe a surprise, but it couldn’t have been a shock. With the injuries, illnesses and suspensions suffered, the Lakers had to use their 22nd different starting lineup in their 41st game. The chance for Christie, for anyone really, statistically was on its way.

But the way the Lakers have played over the last four weeks has enabled players like Christie — who scored 14 points on six-for-eight shooting against the Nuggets — to more easily fill-in and contribute, a testament to the Lakers’ comfortability in the systems they’ve installed.

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“I think guys, again, 41 games in, after offseason workouts, open gym, training camp, they’re really getting their arms fully around what we’re doing on both sides of the ball,” coach Darvin Ham said after practice Wednesday. “Some nights it works out, some nights it doesn’t. That’s the nature of the NBA and the nature of the NBA season. But I think guys are feeling more comfortable because they are more familiar with the principles and everything that we expect from ourselves instead of just scouting an opponent or whatever. We have to know what we want to do and what we want to get done as a team. And I think they’re fully embracing what’s been throw at them.”

Since the Lakers have hit their biggest stretch of injury problems, players like Christie, Wenyen Gabriel, Thomas Bryant, Kendrick Nunn, Cole Swider and Juan Toscano-Anderson have stepped into new roles and performed well.

Earlier in the season when the Lakers were short-handed, the team looked disjointed. Now, as they’ve navigated moderate-to-serious injuries for Anthony Davis, Lonnie Walker IV, Austin Reaves and Troy Brown Jr., they’ve been more confident and organized.

“If you kinda create a culture, create a way we’re supposed to play, the next guy just kind of gets in line. Should at least,” Russell Westbrook said Monday. “And I think that it’s something we’re kinda establishing. That’s why we’re giving ourselves a chance to win games regardless of who is playing. And I think that’s the best part about it.”

Davis back sooner than later?

Anthony Davis sits in street clothes on the Lakers bench.
Anthony Davis, center, might be in uniform on the bench soon.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The Lakers have continued to be very careful when it comes to setting expectations publicly for Davis’ return from his foot injuries, but it’s becoming pretty clear that things are moving in the right direction.


Friday will be four weeks since he suffered the original injury, and Wednesday, Ham said “everything is going according to plan” with Davis.

It’s not unreasonable to think Davis could be back on the court sometime this month, helping give the Lakers a little clarity as the trade deadline looms.

Song of the Week

Learning to Fly” by Kurt Vile (LIVE)

In honor of Philadelphia coming to Los Angeles this Sunday, I wanted to pick a song from a Philly musical. And while this space is routinely reserved for the War on Drugs, I stumbled upon this awesome cover from Philly singer/songwriter/guitarist Kurt Vile. Granted the Lakers haven’t exactly been flying – they haven’t been .500 this year – but they’re learning.

In case you missed it

Thomas Bryant’s forceful emergence has Lakers thinking of frontcourt dominance

NBA roundtable: Where Lakers and Clippers fit among season’s surprises and disappointments

Lakers’ five-game winning streak ends with loss to the Nuggets

Lakers top Kings for fifth straight win, keep rolling after LeBron James’ rallying cry

Dennis Schroder was surprised he got foul call before clinching Lakers win

LeBron James returns and leads injury-riddled Lakers to fourth consecutive win

Injuries will sideline Lakers guards Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV indefinitely

Dennis Schroder scores season-high 32 points as Lakers hold off Heat to extend win streak

‘I’m going to be great, don’t worry about it.’ Behind Dennis Schroder’s big night for Lakers

Until next time...

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