With 22 games left, Lakers lean on depth and improved shooting

Lakers guard Malik Beasley claps his hands after making a shot against the Pelicans last week.
Lakers guard Malik Beasley has made 15 three-point shots in four games since being acquired in a trade.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Hey everyone, it’s beat writer Dan Woike, and welcome back to the latest edition of the Lakers newsletter at a time when the important people at the L.A. Times allow me to suggest you listen to a song because they’re too busy to check to see if the lyrics are inappropriate.

We’ve got a new-look team, a new sense of urgency and a new round of hope, so I figured today would be as good a time as any for some rapid-fire, and random, thoughts about the Lakers and their remaining schedule.


1. There’s zero chance the Lakers win against the Warriors on Thursday with LeBron James and Anthony Davis struggling if the team hadn’t made the Russell Westbrook trade. His inability to carry the Lakers’ roster when Davis and James had slow nights — or when they were hurt — was the defining failure of his time with the team.

2. That said, the factors that exist for the Lakers now, such as better depth and more perimeter shooting, couldn’t have existed with Westbrook on the roster, his $47-million price tag as bad of a fit for their salary-cap sheet as he was with their stars.

3. Darvin Ham and Davis were among those who were pretty chilly when asked about Westbrook’s fit with the Clippers, both wishing him well in a general sense without elaboration. I think it speaks more to the stress from trying to figure things out with Westbrook — and being free from it — than any personal issues.

4. At one point this season, people within the organization lamented the team’s attempts at adding shooting — i.e., Reggie Bullock, Mike Muscala, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Matthews, etc. Doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a problem with Malik Beasley.

5. Beasley has already made 15 three-point shots in four games, including an 0-for-six start in his debut.

6. I reserve the right to claim that the Lakers’ blowout win against the Warriors might end up saying more about Golden State than it does about the Lakers.


7. The numbers I keep hearing from the Lakers when it comes to internal projections is that the team would need to finish the season around 42-40 to feel like it has a shot at the No. 6 seed, avoiding the play-in tournament.

8. The schedule is friendly enough. After a three-game trip, the Lakers play 10 of their next 12 games at home.

The Lakers have 22 games remaining after a big win over Golden State on Thursday, and the left-for-dead team suddenly looks like a playoff contender.

Feb. 24, 2023

9. Even though this is way more of an NFL thing to do, looking ahead at the Lakers’ schedule you can file games into three categories: should win, could win, probably won’t win.

10. I have them, as of today, with 11 games they should win, eight they could win and three they probably won’t. Obviously, you don’t win all the ones you should or could, and you might steal one that you shouldn’t.

11. Here’s a quirk — the Lakers are scheduled for four Sunday day games, typically the kind of thing players hate because it breaks their typical routine.

12. A minor thing I’ve noticed is new players such as Beasley and Mo Bamba have taken laps around the locker room to say goodbye to everyone in the room before taking off. The team is trying to build chemistry fast and everything helps.


13. With D’Angelo Russell doubtful Sunday in Dallas, I’m curious to see how Dennis Schroder and Jarred Vanderbilt can defend against Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic, respectively. The Lakers used Patrick Beverley on Doncic in the past (and sent double-team after double-team at him).

14. The early word from Ham is that his star players will be available for games back-to-back nights down the stretch. The Lakers have three, including two in the next 10 games. The final back-to-back set comes in April against the Jazz and the Clippers, and the playoff picture could be clearer by then.

Lakers center Mo Bamba dunks against the Pelicans.
Lakers center Mo Bamba dunks against the Pelicans during a game last week.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

15. Talk about being tricked: I asked Ham about lineups and stability pregame Thursday because it felt like the lineup shuffle was over. Then, Russell got hurt rolling his ankle on an inbounds pass and the team will use a new starting five Sunday in Dallas.

16. It’s hard to explain, which makes it almost silly to discuss, but “the vibes” around the Lakers are just so different in the last week.

17. Kudos to Lonnie Walker IV. Now out of the Lakers’ rotation, he’s played late in each of the Lakers’ last two blowout wins and has made six of 11 shots. The odds say the Lakers will need him for long stretches again at some point again this season.

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18. With all the roster improvements the Lakers made it still comes down to how healthy and productive James and Davis can be. The margins for error are wider than they used to be but they’re not that wide.

19. The other factor I’m going to be watching closely is the Lakers’ emotional stamina. Twenty-two games is a hell of a sprint — Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s words — and each loss and piece of adversity will feel magnified with so much at stake. The Lakers, before the trades, were way too emotional and reactive. Can they keep their nerve when things undoubtedly get tough here in the final six-ish weeks?

Song of the Week

Sowing the Seeds of Love” by Tears For Fears

Who knew my favorite Beatles song was actually written and recorded by Tears For Fears?

In case you missed it

With LeBron James struggling, Lakers lean on depth and defense to defeat Warriors

Plaschke: The new-energy Lakers suddenly look like a playoff team

Lakers-Warriors takeaways: Austin Reaves, Malik Beasley make their mark

Lakers’ 5 storylines: Path to postseason is short and difficult


‘We got to win:’ The revamped Lakers are pushing to clinch a playoff spot

LeBron James on Lakers trades: ‘We did a really good job’

From LeBron James’ start, rivals saw he was off the charts

Until next time...

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