In the preseason, most people are raving about the Los Angeles Clippers are the new star of Hollywood. Some people are doubting the Los Angeles Lakers team.
When the season started, the symbolic Clippers win over the Lakers, without Kawhi or Paul George further fuelled doubt.
However, a quarter of the regular season has passed. Let us take stock. The Lakers are now the best record in the NBA and rightfully so. Below, we breakdown ten evidence that this Lakers team are here for real, exhibiting historically strong signs and intangible qualities that a Championship contender should have.
1. Most Points In A Half
As reported by Mike Bresnahan from Spectrum Sportsnet, he quoted the Los Angeles Lakers public relations saying that the Lakers’ 77 first-half points are the most by the Purple and Gold franchise in any first half since pouring 78 points in February 1997 versus Washington Wizards. Being able to have such outpours is definitely a good sign for any contender team.
2. Longest Win Streak In Recent Memory
It is notable that the only time in recent history that the Lakers started a season with at least a 17-2 record was in 2008. It is also humbling to know that it took a starting lineup of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher, and Vladimir Radmanović to achieve that.
This the also the Lakers’ first double-digit win streak since the 2009-2010 season, when they streaked for 11 straight games. That team went on to win it all too.
3. Best Record For A LeBron-led Team
This 21-3 record thus far is the best performance ever by any team that LeBron was ever in. Let that sink in. Better than budding Cleveland Cavaliers in the early days. Better than the white-hot double Championship Miami Heat team. Better than the rebooted Cleveland Cavaliers team who clinches one Championship against the juggernaut Golden State Warriors team in their glory days.
How scary and amazing is that in year 17? Another Championship is due? We will all be witnesses.
4. Best Record In The NBA After A Quarter Of Regular Season
Similar to the 2008 season, the Lakers are off to the best start in the NBA, sitting atop the table with a 20-3 record. A
20-3 win streak is the longest since the last three Lakers championship teams did it en route to being the world champions.
5. Playing Within Adversity
According to Lebron James in his post-game interview, six Lakers players were down with flu-like symptoms and Lakers still managed to find a win against the Denver Nuggets. This should not be taken lightly because the altitude of Denver makes most opponent teams struggle, not to mention when the Lakers are handicapped with six ill players.
Anthony Davis is most notably showing resilience as he was so sick that he needed an intra-veinous drip mid-game just to keep him afloat within the game. This speaks huge volumes for a contender team when your biggest leader is leading by example and your teammates are responding by fighting alongside despite their own illness. This shows mental toughness and ability to win tough battles during the playoffs, which bodes well.
6. Three Straight Road Wins In Three Consecutively Tough Arenas
In the midst of talks that the Lakers had a "soft" schedule that resulted in their good result, the team has gone out and proven doubters wrong by beating three straight tough teams on the road. The altitude and the defensive challenge of Denver Nuggets followed by the Utah Jazz. The hot shooting trio of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony from the Portland Trail Blazers. All these proofed that the Lakers' record is not a fluke.
7. Top Four In Total Team Assists
The Lakers rake in an average of 26.5 assists per game, making them fourth in the NBA for this statistic indicating playmaking and ball movement. This is encouraging because the Lakers are still figuring out their sub-par offense.
The high assists ratio means that the Lakers are still able to score enough points despite not being as efficient at the offensive end yet. A good testament to this is the Lakers' season-high of 136 points in their huge win over Portland Trail Blazers with a margin of 23 points despite not being their best at offense at the moment.
If you break down many of the past Champions, assists had been their staple and the Lakers are already showing that they have what it takes.
8. Growth Mindset
In the December bounce-back game versus Denver Nuggets, LeBron James and Frank Vogel both mentioned the team functions with a growth mindset. When asked how the team bounced back to clinch a road win after losing to the Dallas Mavericks, the two sang the same tune. Learning from failures, improving to be better and taking positive criticisms.
Rajon Rondo also raved about coach Vogel and his coaching staff teaching the right way using film and positive criticisms even on veteran players. This kind of tone and mindset, coming from the head coach and your two biggest playmakers mean that the team is in good hands to grow continually and reach their potential.
9. Confidence In Teammates
When Kentavious Caldwell Pope started the season shooting badly, his teammates came in and stood up for him. LeBron, Danny and the veterans all mentioned their confidence in him. Without a doubt, they passed him the ball when he is open and he came through and delivered eventually.
The big men, JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis all quoted saying that protection of the paint is their combined role and everyone will cover for each others' misses in a group attempt to be great, trusting the "next-man-up" mentality.
Kyle Kuzma started the season with an injury and had trouble getting his offensive rhythm back. Veteran Jared Dudley has been in his corner offering advice and giving a positive talk to nurture the growing third offensive option.
Coach Vogel also reaffirmed this by putting Kyle in crucial fourth-quarter moments to get clutch buckets for the team despite not being a starter or having a ton of minutes to show his prowess.
The coach said that he trusts what he saw in the work that Kyle puts during training sessions and will never hesitate to put him in a position to succeed. All these are loud echoes of a strong team going forward.
10. Incredible Chemistry Off The Court
Traditionally, LeBron will invite his teammates for long dinners, gatherings and offer wholesome gifts. His leadership style is one of close bonding as brothers and connecting everyone on the same page. His past teammates like Kevin Love, Kendrick Perkins, Dwyane Wade and James Jones have all raved about LeBron's generosity and brilliance as a leader uniting the team.
If you follow Lakers' interviews or news, this Lakers team is no different. The team had already went on several dinners and seen going for hang-outs together. Group chats, plane and bus rides, pregame motivational chants and dabbing up one another, celebrating teammates shots and laughter are abound in this Lakers team.
Danny Green has his own podcast going on and he had invited teammates like Dwight Howard on his show during the rest days for casual interviews and trivial chats. Such ease and friendliness are signs of off-court camaraderie and bonding too.
Having seen all these historical feats and intangible excellence that the Lakers team is exhibiting, one can only wonder how good this team really can be and if a Championship is due for the taking in June 2020?