There’s no denying that the Los Angeles Lakers were snakebitten for the entirety of the 2020-21 season. They faced injuries, health and safety protocols, and a number of other factors that left them completely unprepared for the playoffs. By the time the postseason came around, they tried to lean on their veterans — guys like Wesley Matthews — to guide them through it, but it was simply not enough.
One of the issues for the Lakers was a lack of cohesion. Because of the constant lineup shuffling, the Lakers never had time to mesh on the court, leading to clunky offense and missed defensive rotations. Matthews, who missed 14 games this season due to DNP’s or injury, gave another reason for why this may have happened.
Matthews placed some blame on the NBA’s condensedd season forcing them to practice significantly less than they would during a regular season, saying that next year could see a return to a more normal schedule. “A lot of that came with what we couldn’t do much about. It’s repetitions. It’s practice reps. It’s getting in the gym. It’s being able to just have those nuances of tweaks in live practice situations. You can’t do it. It’s a condensed season, it was a shortened season.
“For most of it we played every other day with travel which doesn’t leave you much time to practice and go hard and compete in practice and play live in practice, and play five-on-five and four-on-four or whatever it is in practice so that you can see those live looks because you got to preserve your legs, you got to preserve your contact for when it really matters which is in the game. A lot of our time we were spent, especially when the lineups were changing and guys were in and out and superstars and mega stars were in and out of the lineup. Games almost were kind of practices for us.”
Matthews believes the more practice time the Lakers had, the more comfortable he got playing alongside his teammates.
“We played I don’t know how many rotations that had never been on the court together at the same time, so it was always a learning experience for us and that’s why I just feel like…I feel more comfortable now.”
“I think those guys felt more comfortable with me, understanding situations and moments and spots and how to attack. You play against these guys and you feel they play one way but when you play with them you realize that, ‘Yeah, they play one way but they also have more to them and how can you bring that to the table?’ It’s tough to do without having pickup, playing live in practice, going against certain situations for maybe a two, three-day practice as opposed to game, off, game, off, game, off.”
Matthews is certainly right that getting back to a normal game and practice schedule will help the Lakers gain some cohesion even if injuries are an issue.
Matthews hoping to return to Lakers
It’s also interesting to hear Matthews look towards the future with L.A. given that he is a free agent.
The Lakers veteran is one of 10 potential free agents this offseason, but is not the first to endorse the possibility of running it back and seeing what the team can do when healthy. Clearly, Matthews wants to give it one more real chance with this group of players.
If the Lakers do decide to run it back, they figure to be healthy and facing a much more normalized schedule, two things that they desperately needed in 2020-21.
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