What I hear: Lakers coach Frank Vogel on how the team plans to manage LeBron James̵

7; workload after the shortest off-season in his career.


Los Angeles Lakers striker LeBron James was annoyed last season with the vast majority of voters who chose the Milwaukee Bucks Janice Antetokunmpo for the regular season MVP instead.

But after the Lakers finished with a 113-106 victory over Bucks on Thursday, James sounded apathetic after winning the match against Antetokumpompo (34-25).

“I can’t be less interested in that,” James said. “I try to play well and help our team win against every team.”

Los Angeles Lakers striker Anthony Davis was annoyed last season that Antetokumpompa won the NBA Defender of the Year at his own expense. Still, Davis could hardly boast of playing a role in Antetokunmpo, making nine turns.

“It’s a team defense,” Davis said. “It’s not just the ball man guarding him.”

These banal quotes seal something more than James and Davis, who show their inner “Bull Durham” and remain painfully disciplined, offering no juicy material to flood television, radio and social media. They also demonstrate why the Lakers have always tried to maintain great prospects with both successes and failures.

They didn’t do much right when the Bucks beat them in a head-to-head bout last December. They knew they had a whole season to discover and improve their identity. They hardly made a big deal for their victory in Milwaukee on Thursday. They know they expect another four months of regular basketball season and then playoffs. And they certainly don’t do a great job of chasing matches because they know it has little effect on the playoffs.

“Honestly, no one had picked him up or talked about it. Our motivation was not to lose two in a row tonight, “said Davis. “It simply came to our notice then. He is a great player. Great player on both sides of the ball. He deserves it. But for us, we try to get out there and win basketball games. “

Therefore, the most significant part of the Lakers’ last victory pointed to something else. The Lakers ended the first month of the NBA regular season with mostly encouraging signs of their quest to defend their NBA championship and potential hiccups that could violate that goal.

The Lakers (12-4) have a cushion for a half-game over the Clippers (11-4) for first place in the Western Conference among various moving parts.

The Lakers enjoyed talent and continuity with James and Davis, and the two players pushed the needle between avoiding both load management and burnout.

Replacing Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee, Danny Green with Dennis Schröder, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell and Wesley Matthews, the Lakers increased their secondary results, while not offering as permanent wheel protection. But what they lacked in defense, the Lakers compensated by shooting with 3 points. Kentaviden Caldwell-Pope, who once mocked his inconsistent play, has since become one of the team’s key outside scorers.

While they have felt the tension at the start of the season just over two months after winning the NBA title, the Lakers are still not seriously affected by COVID-19 tests and contact tracking.

“I just wanted to see how we would play and then get the new boys to adjust to what we do as a culture on and off the field,” said James. “I would say we are doing some good things. We just want to keep building on that. “

The texture may not be so perfect. The Lakers have won all eight of their games and are just 4-4 at home. They have raced against lottery teams, including the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder. But ahead of Thursday’s victory over the Bucks, the Lakers battled some of the potential threats at the Western Conference in the Clippers, Dallas Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors.

Still, some of these hiccups have more to do with regular season complacency than deep-seated problems. Although all NBA teams tend to miss steps during the regular season, the Lakers have remained self-motivated enough to avoid a series of losses so far. Since last season, the Lakers have pledged never to lose consecutive games and have managed to experience this only three times.

The Lakers certainly don’t have the same rim protection and protective chemistry as last season. But the Lakers appear to be missing in the area due to efforts. They seem to have it because of the new songs. Meanwhile, they relied on the brilliance of James and Davis, as well as their depth of notice, to compensate for these shortcomings in defense.

“Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when I came out of a short off-season and came in after winning the championship,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “I really thought it could be played in a wide variety of ways. I’m happy with where we are. There are some areas where we need to continue to improve. And in the beginning, we showed that we can be great – we just discipline things with the habits we build with more repetitions and more time together. “

In other words, the Lakers expect their identities to develop with more experience in court. But they are also aware of the challenges facing COVID cases, fatigue and the best shot of the opposing team, remaining large inequalities.

So while the Lakers were happy to collect a win and succeed against Antetokounmpo, they hardly think much about it. Bigger goals and challenges are expected.

Follow US TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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