The Los Angeles Lakers are playing above their heads some might say but I’ve said it since the offseason. They will be fighters. What I didn’t expect was the emergence and leadership that Nick Young has provided. What this group has done so far in the first few weeks of the season has been outstanding. But there is more to come.
How much more?
The Lakers will make the 2016-17 NBA playoffs. Yes, I said it and I will stick to my guns until the final horn sounds and the record say otherwise. But watching this team is like watching your child walk for the first time or ride the bike without their training wheels for the first time. There will be some bumps along the way but once they get the taste and thrill of the moment. Watch out.
This is where they are at now. And while the players have a huge impact on what has happened so far, much gratitude must go to the rookie head coach, Luke Walton. He has taken the team under his wing and has bestowed upon them, responsibility. Bryon Scott wanted to be a dictator and the players were too young and too talented to go with his forceful ways. He benched players like D’Anglelo Russell for mistakes that any rookie would make. He forgot that Russell is still a teenager as he was learning the hardest position in the NBA. Walton has rules but he understood during camp that in order for this team to succeed, he had to let them be.
The Lakers are 7-5 after an impressive win against the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday night in which Julius Randle and Russell showed the moxie that will lead the Lakers to one of the top eight records in the West earning them a playoff berth.
The Lakers will suffer through growing pains this year and may hit a slump or two where they may lose 3-4 games in a row. But amidst all that youth is still veteran leadership on the team that will tighten the reigns and get the ship back on track. Lou Williams is still present, so is Luol Deng, Metta World Peace, Young, and Timofey Mozgov. Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Randle are the heavy lifters on both ends of the floor, but unlike last season with Kobe, they have learned to lean on one another when the situation gets tight.
I don’t know if Walton has instilled what he learned while being in Golden State but whatever he has done has brought this team together quicker than anyone thought they would be. The West is still tough and the Lakers will still have to contend with the likes of the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, and the Oklahoma City Thunder. But if they keep playing the way they have, none of that will matter as the same teams will be worried about catching them in the standings.