After a memorable media day on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers got to work on building the team chemistry needed for another title run. The team held its first official practice on Wednesday, which gave us the first glimpse of how special this team could be when firing on all cylinders.
After practice, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook spoke to the media, and a hot topic was how this team could look on the defensive end. As far as Westbrook is concerned, this Lakers squad has the potential to be one of the best defensive teams that he has played for.
"It's a luxury", said Russell Westbrook after their first team practice. "We [were] talking about it today, about changing my mind, my mentality, about having those guys as a blanket in the back that you can always count on and just do my job and make sure I get into the ball and defend to the best of my ability. I know those guys will have my back just like I have theirs."
Having that type of protection back there for a full 48 minutes is something that Westbrook has never had before. Whether it was with the Thunder, Rockets, or Wizards, the game plan for his teams had always been to outshoot the opponents rather than stop them on the defensive end.
That's going to change with the number of bigs the Lakers can throw on the floor at any given moment. While Anthony Davis is expected to start at center on most nights, having Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan off the bench as interior defenders will give other teams fits when driving to the basket.
"It gives our guards more confidence to pressure the ball, knowing that we're back there", said Anthony Davis. "The more we can, as bigs, kind of anchor the defense, it gives them enough confidence to go out there and smother the ball."
Players like Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard know firsthand how lethal a defense anchored around its big men can be. After all, both players were a part of that incredible 2019-20 team that broke the title drought for LA.
Health will be the biggest factor when determining how good this team can be. If any key player were to miss a significant amount of time, they might struggle to play the same style of ball for an extended period. If all goes according to plan, however, this team could be truly special on that side of the ball.