If the Lakers somehow take their season and flip it around, using their 3-10 start as fuel for an unlikely victory, a brutally honest film session could take on an almost mythical importance.
The team, gathered Saturday in the theater room of their practice facility in El Segundo, could not let their second five-game losing streak in a month go. They had to get clean. They had to tell the truth.
They had to be better.
“Just laying everything out on the table,” forward Anthony Davis said of the film session that continued with their win over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. “Trying to win. We had conversations about what a team that was 2-10 should have, you know? About what each player can do better, what we were going to do better together. Training team. Medical staff. everyone. We just want to figure this thing out.”
Davis spoke up. So did LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley. Trainers too.
“He was just like, ‘Come on man,'” coach Darvin Ham said Wednesday. “Like, I’m looking in the room and I’m seeing talent. Everyone talks about the roster and all that, but we have enough talent to compete at a high level. Shots weren’t falling early but we were definitely defending at a level of play.
“We just have to go back to the simple things, and that’s what we did. We said we were going to focus on keeping things simple and being more consistent on the two or three things we need to do on both sides of the ball.”
This team has looked long on problems and short on solutions, an uneven roster with so much money thrown at the top and so many question marks at the bottom.
But Saturday’s truth session seemed important enough to Beverley to bring it up after Sunday’s game and for Davis and Ham to talk about it at length. Westbrook, who was closer to the vest about it, said, “It was a great film session and I thought it was beneficial for everybody.”
The Lakers returned to full practice Wednesday ahead of Friday’s home game with the Detroit Pistons.
They are getting healthier. James participated in the non-contact portions of Wednesday’s practice after straining his adductor muscle last week against the Clippers. And forward Thomas Bryant and guard Dennis Schroder, neither of whom played this season due to surgery, were back on the floor for a team scrimmage. That meant everyone was in practice except for forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, who is day-to-day with a back injury, and rookie Max Christie, who entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
The biggest gains the Lakers can hope for are in terms of chemistry. These are not the concerns of winning teams. But the Lakers, even after Sunday’s strong victory over the scuffling and short-handed Nets, are still far from a winning team.
“When we were 10-2, 10-3, it wasn’t [any] of those conversations. We didn’t have to,” Davis said. “We didn’t need to tell any truth. It’s different when you’re 2-10. … But as I said, he wants us to figure it out. We’re not standing in the past, like, ‘Man, we could have won this game.’ It’s about, ‘Okay, what can we do now? How can we improve this? How can we improve our defense that has slipped the last three or four games. How can we do that?’ “
There is hope. A healthier team with more time together with an easier schedule after a significant layoff – that’s a good recipe for better basketball.
“Things are moving in the right direction,” Westbrook said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
For Ham, who talked about wanting the Lakers to be accountable, that film session was a big moment. Everyone was “said” and working to find solutions.
At a time when the film can be ugly and the frustrations of losing high, moments like this are not easy to take.
“You have to be careful, because passion can slip into being emotional. You want to be passionate. You want to be emotional. But you tend to take things personal when you’re more emotional,” Ham said. “But being passionate about what we have to do, controlling what we can control. And not making self-inflicted mistakes.”
It looks like the Lakers got Sunday right against the Nets because they got Saturday’s film session right.
And if they start stacking talents, their open and honest dialogue might get credit for that too.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.