The first Lakers preseason game for the 2016-17 season is done, and while there had been miscues here and there, overall, there are many things to be pleased about, namely the team’s newfound better defense and depth.
However, while the Lakers came away with a double-digit victory over the Sacramento Kings, many fans still complained about certain things, such as lackluster games from both D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. Russell had 4 points, 3 assists, and 3 steals with 5 turnovers on 2/8 shooting. Randle had 6 points and 7 rebounds, but 4 turnovers and 5 personal fouls. Many fans were unhappy with their performances, but they should relax for the time being. While these numbers aren’t necessarily good, it’s not time to panic.
First of all, this is their first preseason game. They only had one week of training camp to get to know new teammates and new schemes from an entirely new coaching staff. It will take time for them to gel with their new teammates and get used to a completely different style of play from last year.
Second, Lakers Head Coach Luke Walton had been raving about these two for a while. As it seems, praise from Walton is not just hubris, as he has praised Anthony Brown’s shooting and Jordan Clarkson’s defense during training camp. Many people did not want to believe that Brown’s shooting could come back to his college form where he was a great shooter from the outside or that Clarkson’s defense could improve. However, the first preseason game showed glimpses that may prove Walton’s assessments accurate. Since Walton also praised both Russell and Randle, we should give Walton the benefit of the doubt until we have a larger sample size to base our judgments off of.
Third (and I think most importantly), there was a 6’1 combo guard unexpectedly inserted into the starting lineup who may or may not have interrupted the flow of the offense by dominating possessions to draw fouls and by being overmatched on the defensive side of the ball. [Editors note: He’s talking about Lou Williams, future Detroit Piston?]
The point is, many factors may have contributed to both of them having bad games and these factors can be easily rectified. While they do have to change certain individual habits (i.e. Russell’s passes not being direct enough or Randle hesitating to shoot even when open), these will be corrected with time. They just need more reps to smooth out certain bad habits or flaws in their game.
In the end, frustrated Lakers fans have no choice but to support these two in reaching their potential. Russell is the on-court leader of the team because he is the point guard and Walton had given him that role and responsibility. Randle has been described as the player whose energy affects the rest of the team. When Randle’s energy is high, the whole team plays with a stronger purpose.
Ultimately, the Lakers can only go as far as these two take them because of their emotional and actual schematic roles on the team. The fans who are critical of them should be patient and let them see if they can reach their potential because it is essential to the team’s ultimate success. Brown and Clarkson are clear examples of being patient and giving the players time, because the last preseason game definitely showed they have made clear improvements. Give Russell and Randle time to make the necessary adjustments because from all reports regarding their training, they worked extremely hard and hard work will usually pay off. They definitely need more than one preseason game to show everyone the improvements they made to their games.