The Los Angeles Lakers' grand experiment came out flat on opening night as the purple and gold lost a winnable game to the Golden State Warriors, 121-115. It turns out all the problems with the roster construction that analysts and pundits identified over the offseason... were accurate! The Lakers had no spacing, giving very little room for anybody to operate on offense, and the perimeter defense was suspect. LeBron James and Anthony Davis still did their usual thing, combining for 67 points, 22 rebounds, and seven assists. Russell Westbrook was his usual chaotic self, but in the bad way, scoring only eight points on 4-of-13 shooting and (perhaps most concerning) notching only four assists.
It is still early, as the Lakers told everybody after last night's affair. They've been saying all the right things about taking time to mesh in the lead-up to the season. Betting on LeBron to figure it out with this level of talent at his disposal is a sure pay-off. To some degree, anyway. Because while this unusual roster will get a chance to work out any and all kinks over the next 81 games, the fundamental issues on display opening night are not going away.
Nick Wright summed it up well on First Things First this morning: a team with LeBron James as the best three-point shooter on the floor simply isn't going to get it done.
This is not a knock on LeBron. It is reality. For all of the immeasurably great things The King has done and can do on the basketball court, shooting from deep at a high level has never been one of them. He has his streaks-- there was a stretch of time last year where he was hitting 41 percent of his shots from deep-- but he always comes out as an average-at-best three-point shooter. Which is fine, considering everything else he does.
But in a modern NBA, teams need more than average shooting to win and win consistently. The Lakers are betting against that rule. Some nights, it'll work to perfection. Others will look like this matchup with the Warriors, where four of five defenders were lingering in the paint on every Lakers' offensive possession.
Los Angeles will not be bad this year. That much we know. But the next 81 games don't matter nearly as much as what comes after. Defenses go to extremes in the playoffs. What's going to happen when an entire defensive unit doesn't respect the three-point shooting of this team for a seven-game series? Last night was an indicator that it'll be ugly.