Both the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of big wins on Sunday night. For the Grizzlies it will be trying to get their second win this season, and for the Lakers it will be about trying to start a three game winning streak. I sat down with Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll to discuss the Lakers solid start to the season.
1.) The Lakers are without Rajon Rando, and Kyle Kuzma to start the season. Despite not having those two key guys the Lakers are 2-1. When can we expect Kuzma and Rondo back?
Possibly as soon as Tuesday night against Memphis. As of Sunday, both were still continuing to progress in their rehab, although it’s unknown exactly when to expect them back in the lineup as of now. It’s also unclear how much Rondo really helps this team -- they could use ballhandling, but his other weaknesses may outweigh whatever he can offer on that front -- but Kuzma should give the Lakers some sorely needed secondary scoring punch off the bench.
2.) The Lakers are recipients of two straight solid wins against the Utah Jazz and the Charlotte Hornets. What has the Lakers playing so well through the first three games?
On some level, the answer here is “the schedule.” The Lakers (outside of a few exceptions) have a really weak first quarter of the season on the calendar, and are going to have to take advantage of it if they want to climb the Western Conference playoff bracket.
Beyond just their second two opponents though, the Lakers are showing flashes of really strong defense. They definitely played with their food a bit against Charlotte, but in the last two games they have blitzed their opponents due to some second-half adjustments, and Frank Vogel is definitely establishing himself as a coach who isn’t afraid to change up things that aren’t working.
3.) We talked about the Lakers being without Kyle Kuzma and Rajan Rondo. Who are some guys that have stepped up in place of Rondo and Kuzma?
Alex Caruso didn’t play the first game and his stats won’t blow you away, but he has come in and helped turn the tide for the last two games with strong defense from the point guard position while doing just enough offensively. Troy Daniels has had some moments at the guard slot, while Jared Dudley has actually looked pretty helpful as the team’s small-ball four in Kuzma’s absence. In Kuzma’s case, though, the Lakers don’t really have anyone who can replace his size on the wing -- as watching KCP defend Kawhi will show you -- and the team could use him back as a secondary threat and at the very least lengthy (if still not great) defender.
4.) The big question coming into this season was how fast Anthony Davis, and LeBron James would gel. It seems that they’re gelling faster than expected. What are your early takeaways from the dynamic duo?
I don’t even know if they’ve gelled “faster than expected,” in my view. I think the expectation here was that as two of the most complementary superstars ever put together that they would gel almost immediately. Things aren’t perfect so far, but they’re about as in-sync as two stars can be right off the bat. Look for James to really go out of his way to try and set Davis up, even if it comes at the expense of his own stats.
5.) Focusing more on tonight’s matchup - Memphis is coming off of a huge win against the Brooklyn Nets in OT at FedEx Forum led by rookie Ja Morant. What are some matchups that you’re excited to see tonight at Staples Center between the Lakers and Grizzlies?
Andre Iguodala vs. the Grizzlies front office. Can Iggy escape during the game and hide on the Lakers’ bench until Memphis just allows him to stay there? You’re saying that won’t happen? Fine...
In all seriousness, I’ll mostly be excited for my first look at Morant (and JJJ) this year, but as far as the Lakers go, I think most of us observers of the team will be looking to see if this is the first night that they just put a lottery opponent away and take them seriously from the jump, or if they kind of screw around for 2.5 quarters before going on a game-breaking run. Either way, this should be a fun one.