Lakers camp has opened, and we have to pretend that this team is seriously moving forward with this roster for the rest of the season. New coach Darwin Ham is stressing defense, and LeBron James is following suit. Russell Westbrook, “a great part of our team.” There’s an obvious lack of shooting to anyone outside the organization, and I guess beat writers have to nod and report outlandish assertions as if they’re fact like Patrick Beverly saying he’s an “elite catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter, obviously.”
Bev did hit nearly 40 percent of his catch-and-shoots a year ago despite finishing the season with the worst percentage from deep (34 percent, so not bad) of his career. The fact that he made such a high clip of the only shots he should be taking and still ended up in the mid-30s says a lot about how much he felt himself in Minnesota last year, but now I’m getting sidetracked.
For those of you concerned about L.A.’s ability to space the floor, fear not because Anthony Davis is ready to let it rip, and says a wrist injury was the reason his jumper was shattered in 2021. His 18 percent from deep a year ago was the worst for a season in which he attempted more than 1.5 3s per game. (The first three years in the league he didn’t even shoot 3s, which seems so weird considering the shooting contest the game has morphed into since 2012.)
Here’s was AD said (via ESPN):
“A lot of people don’t know this, but since January I was battling a wrist injury the whole year. So it was affecting my shot and everything. That’s not an excuse but it was tough for me to shoot how I wanted to shoot. I couldn’t really follow through.
“I couldn’t follow through. Anytime I followed through it was very painful. And I had to try do that over and over.”
Well, that explains/solves it. Why are we even playing the season? Let’s just hand the Larry O’Brien to the Lakers now and call it good. Davis said he’s “100 percent healthy” and “really shooting the ball.” That’s all the evidence I need. Nothing to see here, folks. Keep it moving.
The thing is — and, yes, there most definitely is a thing, if not enough things to necessitate a thing rack — Davis shouldn’t be the team’s threat from distance, or even a threat from distance. He’s too talented to be a glorified Chris Bosh, and the Lakers are going to need him to be at least a 1B if they want to contend for a title (once they move Russ, of course).
We know the winning formula for AD and LeBron, and it doesn’t consist of a perimeter rotation featuring Beverley, Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, Max Christie, and Scotty Pippen Jr. Those players — and LeBron — are the ones Ham singled out as the standout shooters during the early days of camp. The appropriate reaction to that is “My god” — whether you laugh or cry afterward depends on how you feel about L.A.
My reaction to the news that Davis was struggling with a bum wrist last year is basically, what else is new? I’m not sure if I should be encouraged by the reasoning for the shooting lull, or discouraged that home dude was even more injured than previously thought.
Mentioning his wrist months after last season imploded is a PR move patented by sports teams to excuse a star player’s off day, week, month, season. The big man amasses ailments like an unsupervised 18-month-old, and no one should fall for the guise that he’s 100 percent.
By mid-December, his health will be hovering around Pat Bev’s catch-and-shoot percentage, and half of the standout shooters in camp could be in San Antonio or Indiana. More so than any trade, or vintage LeBron season, this team needs the franchise’s other active member of the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team to stay healthy.
If he can’t do that, or even play through pain effectively, the Lakers have no shot — despite all the shooting they allegedly have.