Though the engine of their offense — point guard Lonzo Ball — has been sidelined by an ankle sprain, the Lakers are still trying to keep the game at full throttle.
But with that goal of pushing the pace — especially without the leader of the offense — comes some growing pains.
In particular, head coach Luke Walton doesn’t want his team to confuse getting out and running with forcing shots early in the possession.
“Those first couple games we really struggled with the idea of moving the ball and knowing what playing fast is about and taking advantage of opportunities,” Walton said at Wednesday’s practice. “Because of that, we weren’t getting ball movement and guys weren’t getting good, rhythm shots.
“That’s frustrating as a coach and as a player.”
Julius Randle shared a similar critique as Walton.
While he thinks the team can still amp up the pace, it has to balance that with getting quality attempts.
“We can always play faster,” Randle said. “… I think the big thing is we’ve just got to learn how to play: What’s a good shot, what’s a bad shot?”
This was something that Corey Brewer and the Houston Rockets had to figure out when they operated at the league’s third-fastest pace last year.
Before he was traded to the Lakers, Brewer said the key was embracing speed as an identity.
“It can’t be: ‘I’m gonna play fast (and) sometimes I’m not gonna play fast,’” Brewer said. “In Houston we just played fast, so you knew every game we were gonna run people to death.”
Like Walton and Randle, Brewer felt that the Lakers could use some more ball movement mixed into their up-and-down style.
“That’s why we’re struggling a little bit in preseason,” Brewer said. “We’re playing a little too fast and not moving the ball. You can move the ball and still play fast.”
With eight days still left until opening night, the Lakers are still clearly feeling out their offense.
The team is actually just 15th in the NBA in pace (101.2 possessions per game), though only four teams hit the 101-possession mark last regular season.
The Lakers — who ran the sixth-fastest pace last year (100.8) — can instead take solace in ranking 10th in offensive rating this preseason, with 102.1 points per 100 possessions, despite Ball’s absence for three of five exhibitions.
Still, expect the Lakers to crank up the speed when Ball returns to the lineup.
“Our biggest commitment is still to try to get out and run,” Walton said. “I felt like we had some really nice opportunities last night, and there were some (when) watching the film we weren’t running nearly hard enough.”