Lakers yearn for dawn of next season
Now for the season Lakerdom has waited all decade for …
Oh, wait, that’s next season, after the Lakers bag that second star player they’ve saved salary cap space for, such as Kawhi Leonard or (they can dream) Kevin Durant.
This season should be titled “In the meantime.” For the Lakers, who measure success in titles, this is still about rebuilding to contend on that level, as opposed to being there.
The Western Conference powers far outgun them — that’s the Rockets as well as the Warriors and perhaps two or three or more teams.
The Las Vegas over/under has the Lakers at 48.5 wins, a fair projection that ties them with Utah for No. 4 in the West, 14 behind the Warriors, six behind Houston, two behind OKC.
The Nuggets are one back.
The Timberwolves are two back, only because of the furor around Jimmy Butler’s trade demand.
These are unusually modest expectations on the Lakers, a glamour franchise that now has LeBron James, after finishing 23-18 last season, a pace that projects to a 46-win season preLeBron.
Nevertheless, I’m going with the “under” on this season: Not enough cohesion, which even lesser Western challengers such as Denver, Portland and New Orleans have after years together.
There are too many new moving parts in a conference in which the powers have so few.
(LeBron has been in the
last eight Finals — reaching all from the East, the lesser conference even when his Miami teams were the NBA’s best. Had LeBron’s Heat and Cavaliers been in the West, he would have done well to make half those Finals.)
Besides LeBron, Magic Johnson signed four veterans with checkered pasts who might be in the rotation — Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson. The team hopes they will assume key roles, not the least of which is vanishing from its salary cap next spring.
(Actually, Rondo, one of those viewed most skeptically, might be the most helpful, especially if Lonzo Ball struggles or gets hurt. Once a non-factor past 15 feet, Rondo has become a 35 percent 3-point shooter. )
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James reacts after a play against the Golden State Warriors during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 10in Las Vegas.